Millions of women are suffering
Millions of women are suffering menopause misery because simple steps are not being taken to alleviate common symptoms including panic attacks, palpitations, hot flashes, and extreme tiredness. My latest research, involving a survey of over 1000 women, shows a staggering 80 per cent of women report suffering moderate to severe menopausal symptoms, which can last between seven to 10 years, which is dramatically affecting the quality of their lives. This is far more than was previously thought.
Although it was accepted that eight of ten women had some symptoms, only a quarter of these were believed to have severe symptoms. What we are seeing though is much worse with women reporting significant impact on their home lives and relationships.
Not least, this is crippling women in the workplace, affecting their self-esteem and confidence, as well as their productivity. Our survey found that 84 per cent of respondents felt that their productivity was reduced but only 20 per cent took any time off work to deal with the symptoms.
Yet over 90 per cent of peri-menopausal women, including those with severe symptoms, could be symptom-free if doctors and health care workers followed NICE guidelines to support women to make lifestyle and dietary changes. These changes, which are cheap and easy to administer, involve getting women into better nutritional shape and correcting imbalances of key minerals and vitamins. Previous research already shows that poor nutrition is widespread among women around the age of 50. In fact, between 50-80 per cent of women have low magnesium stores as well as being deficient in iron, zinc and other compounds that are key to brain health and hormone balance.
But these NICE guidelines are routinely ignored. What I have found is that many doctors and occupational therapists are still poorly educated about how to recognise and treat menopausal symptoms, often misdiagnosing anxiety and panic attacks as signs of ‘burnout’ or stress.
Decling levels of Oestrogen
So women walk out of surgeries with prescriptions for HRT, which is not considered suitable for everyone and comes with side effects of its own, or anti-depressants. What they should be getting is support and guidance on how to adjust their diet and lifestyle. And this is a shame because good nutrition, exercise and formal relaxation can protect women against other health issues associated with declining levels of oestrogen including osteoporosis, heart disease as well as depression and stress related anxiety. Women themselves often fail to put two and two together and realise that they are actually suffering from menopausal symptoms. Others perhaps deliberately choose not to report their problems, fearing that they may be ‘downgraded’ at work or even let go.
I have written to the Parliamentary Group on Women’s Health to urge them to prioritise the menopause on their agenda as a matter of urgency, but I know how slowly the wheels of government can turn.
Health Ministers are appointed with little or no experience in the subject and are reshuffled as soon as they begin to understand what they are dealing with – so nothing really happens quickly. No one is taking the long-term view. In the meantime, I have set up my own online information and support group – our Facebook page has over 7500 members and is growing every day – to try and help women deal with this issue here and now. I am also launching virtual Menopause Boot Camps for women to spend 6 weeks learning how to overcome their symptoms including choosing the most appropriate dietary changes they need to make, what supplements they need to take for their particular symptoms and simple tips on relaxation, meditation and exercise. Even 20 minutes of relaxation every day (not including TV watching but proper formal relaxation) can help menopause symptoms melt away.
50 time to celebrate
Being 50 should be a cause for celebration. Many women will have successfully navigated the major challenges in life such as career and family. They are at the peak of their powers, the height of their earning capacity and should feel confident about coping with life. Instead, we are seeing lost work days, a hit on the economy, relationships under strain and even breaking up and a whole cohort of women ARE living in misery.
First published on Hippocraticpost.com