Notes from the Menopause Workshop on Thursday 18th July

What is the Menopause?

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Our bodies and the systems within them, especially the hormone system are complicated.  When it all works it is amazing, but just like the London Tube system, if one thing goes wrong it can have a catastrophic effect on the rest of the bodies system.

According to the “The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. The menopause is a natural part of ageing that usually occurs between 45-55 years of age as a woman’s oestrogen levels decline.  In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51”

Oestrogen, in the simplest terms, is the sex hormone that women produce, which is responsible for development at puberty. As well as regulating our menstrual cycle, it also affects how our skin looks and how strong our bones are. Here is a list of the most common symptoms

  • Anxiety and stress

  • Bloating

  • Breast tenderness

  • Brittle nails

  • Body odour changes

  • Depression

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Dizziness

  • Overwhelming fatigue

  • Gastrointestinal problems

  • Bleeding gums

  • Hot flushes

  • Hair changes; increased facial hair, but thinning hair elsewhere

  • Headaches, especially at the start of the menopause

  • Bladder incontinence

  • Irregular, pounding heartbeat

  • Irregular menstrual cycle

  • Irritability

  • Itchy skin

  • Joint pain

  • Loss of libido

  • Memory lapses

  • Mood swings

  • Muscle tension

  • Night sweats

  • Osteoporosis

  • Panic attacks

  • Sleep disorders

  • Tingling extremities

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Weight gain

Things I have learned about the menopause

  • Keep a diary of your symptoms

Keep a note of how you are feeling, it will help when you go and see your GP and you may soon pick out regular patterns of behavior, this is also important so that you can see what, if anything affects your running.

  •  Change your attitude

People seem to think they need to wait until they are 'menopausal', but all that means is that you haven't had a period for over a year," she explains.

The perimenopause [also known as menopause transition] is the really difficult time because that is when your hormones are up and down and all over the place. That can last for 10 years or more. So if you are experiencing symptoms and you are in your early 40’s you could be perimenopausal. Put aside any preconceptions that you have to wait until a certain time. If you are not feeling right, no one knows you better than you."

  •  There are different things to try

 A lot of women feel uncomfortable about the thought of using HRT [hormone replacement therapy] because of the negative press it has received in the past, even though the worries that were spread about HRT have since been disproven. If in doublt talk to other people who have tried HRT or talk to your GP about the options, there is no causal link between breast cancer and HRT useage.

  •  Talk

 Talk to your friends and your partner, this issue shouldn’t be taboo and if you are really suffering don’t suffer in silence, it’s important to speak out.

 Remember the menopause is your journey and your GP should adopt an individual approach to your symptoms, your diagnosis and your treatment.

 The NICE guidelines (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) suggest that diagnosis can be done without lab tests in otherwise healthy women age over 45 years with menopausal symptoms

 GP’s should

·    adapt a women’s treatment as needed, based on her changing symptoms

·    Offer women HRT for vasomotor symptoms after discussing with them the short-term and longer-term benefits and risks.

 How beneficial is HRT?

HRT can help women with both the physical and mental symptoms of menopause because it stimulated the estrogen receptors and so stops these symptoms occurring.  HRT has got some bad press over the years, with headlines linking it to an increase in breast cancer, for example. Women are worried about using it and GPs are reluctant to prescribe it.  According to Dr Peers, The Women’s health Initiative study in 2006 “overstated risks-many of which were not statistically significant and did not take account of confounding factors, in a very poorly designed study” She believes women need re-educating about HRT. 

 There are plenty of alternatives to HRT and diet, exercise, CBT, reducing alcohol intake and losing weight are all recommended.