Oprah Winfrey opened up about the difficulties of getting clear, helpful information about and treatment for menopause — even for hugely famous people with access to world-class medical care — in a conversation with Maria Shriver and Drew Barrymore that recently aired on OprahDaily.com. She shared that she experienced a cardiac symptom when menopause began for her — but that no one on her medical care team suggested the two could be related.

Winfrey, who is 69, said, “I never had a hot flash in my life…but I started [menopause] at 48 with heart palpitations,” she said. “I went from doctor to doctor, literally five different doctors. At one point, a female doctor had given me, first of all, an angiogram, and put me on heart medication and never once mentioned that this could be menopause or perimenopause.” (A little refresher: Perimenopause — which translates to “around menopause” — refers to the start of menopause, and it can strike at different ages. For most people, it starts between ages 40 and 44, according to the Mount Sinai Health System.)

According to research published in the journal Women’s Health in 2022, heart palpitations are common during perimenopause. Up to 40% of perimenopausal people experience the symptom, according to a 2021 paper in Women’s Midlife Health. Specifically, some people starting menopause experienced a pounding heartbeat or skipped, missed, irregular, or exaggerated heartbeats. The paper reported that little is known about why this happens, which could be, in part, because perimenopausal people aren’t thoroughly assessed for heart palpitations.

Though research has linked this symptom to menopause, certain heart palpitations should send you straight to an emergency room or urgent care center, as they could be indicators of something more serious. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting at the same time as heart palpitations, you should seek medical help immediately, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In addition to heart palpitations, Winfrey shared that she experienced brain fog during menopause. “I remember going through a period where I just felt like whatever…and could not concentrate [on] reading, which is my favorite thing to do,” she said. “I couldn’t focus long enough.” She recalled that, when she spoke about this condition with a friend, she said she felt “duller” than she used to be.

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