News this week, here in the UK, that MPs are calling for a ‘menopause leave’ pilot scheme to help support working women. A positive (but long-overdue) step on the path to better care for those in menopause. There are many more steps to go to give people the support they need either side of the menopause transition. My next book is on post-menopausal health for the simple reason that declining hormones have a profound effect on our ability to age well. And I’d love your help with the book – read on….
OESTROGEN: THE BODY’S WONDER DRUG
The hormones of reproduction – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone – do so much more than help us have babies. Pre-menopause, they all – and oestrogen in particular – wrap us in a protective cloak, keeping us healthy so we can reproduce and propagate the human race. Which makes total sense. Beyond our reproductive organs, we have receptors for oestrogen throughout our bodies. It affects – and this is not an exhaustive list – the urinary tract, heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, metabolism, inflammation, joints, skin, gut and – critically – the brain. All of which are kept in better working order by the body’s own wonder drug. When levels of oestrogen drop, there’s a negative impact throughout the body. And even if we’re taking HRT/MT, our reproductive hormones don’t return to the levels we enjoyed in our 20s.
A 10-15 YEAR WINDOW
It’s vitally important we take care of our health once that protective cloak of oestrogen has gone. Statistically, there’s a 10-15 year window between our final menstrual period and the chronic diseases of ageing like heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, kicking in. We need to make the most of this window to look after ourselves and reduce our risk of these conditions (which is what my book’s about!).
Heart disease gives us a very clear example. Women tend to develop heart disease after the age of 60, whereas with men it’s after the age of 50. It may be that men succumb earlier because oestrogen protects the lining of our artery walls. But once that protection has declined, we’re more likely to suffer the stiffening of arteries and plaque build-up which can increase risk of heart attacks and stroke. Rates of heart disease fatalities are increasing among women in midlife and it now kills a larger proportion of women over 55 than men. Drilling down into the stats, cardiovascular disease accounts for around 22% of all male deaths under the age of 54, and 18.5% of women. But once we get past 55, the trend is reversed, with cardiovascular disease accounting for 38.5% of male deaths and 41% of female. Heart disease is not a male disease!
PERSISTENT MENOPAUSAL SYMPTOMS
Like many women, I’ve found that being post-menopausal hasn’t meant the end of menopausal symptoms (sadly). A large American study known as SWAN (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation) found that, of the median seven and a half years that vasomotor (hot flushes, night sweats etc) symptoms lasted, four and a half of those years were after the final menstrual period.
Research in Australia found that more than 15% of post-menopausal women aged 55-59 were still suffering vasomotor symptoms, as were 6.5% of post-menopausal women aged 60-65. Smokers, and women who were overweight, were more likely to still be suffering.
I’d love to know a little about your post-menopausal experience, if you’d be willing to share it with me. I’ve put together a very simple, and totally anonymous, survey – here’s the link. It only takes a couple of minutes to fill out and asks a few questions about symptoms post menopause, HRT and your general health. It’s super quick and would be a huge help for the book!
OUR SUMMER BREAK
Annabel and I are off for August, but we’ll return, refreshed and ready to Age Well, in September. We’ll keeping posting on Instagram @agewellproject, so we’ll see you there. You can catch up with my Brain Boost webinar on reducing dementia risk here, and I’m running a three-week course on lowering stress levels for Goldster from August 22nd – all the details are here and it’s incredibly good value.
Summer recipes from the archive for the Northern Hemisphere
Winter recipes from the archive for the Southern Hemisphere
Photo: Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash