The Everlasting Menopause ~ Is There An Upside?

If, like me, you have been dealing with the menopause for absolutely ages (as my memory has been melted by the hot flushes, I am having to guess that I am now entering my 5th year) you might be wondering whether this mid-life cloud has a silver lining. My initial answer would be, ‘does it bollox’ but let’s see.

I turned to my Personal Assistant, Google, and asked the question.

First up is Web MD and a cheerful obs-gyny doctor from Maine who suggests that,

“The truth is that women over 50 are just hitting their stride,” she writes in the introduction of her new book, The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. 

So secret that they are certainly hidden from me. She goes on to say,

“You can turn yourself on. You can rewire your brain and your body to feel more pleasure. The brain is the biggest sex organ in the body.”

Hmmmm.

I must say there are plenty of listings on Google for what can improve the menopause (yoga, exercise, nitric oxide, acupuncture, hops, and a neck-cooler to mention a few) but not so many for the upside. I do eventually find some joker who says this,

“Menopause is a gift, a lantern lighting the way to significant transformation in all areas of your life………. menopause is not the wicked witch. She does not drain women of any vital function nor turn them old, weak, crotchety, or unattractive with a wave of her wand”.

As youngsters (for whom their 50s is light years away) might say: ~ LOL

There is some information out there which I do agree with: Yes, it is natural. Yes, it (eventually) means no more periods and contraception. But is it a stage during which, as this cheerful woman suggest,

“…. the door opens to receive the wisdom of our lineage”?

That may be a step too far, even for the most optimistic of us. I’m not sure I even know what it means.

My only hope is that it is nearing the end. I can’t say my symptoms (brain atrophy, hot flushes, poor sleep are the highlights) have left me feeling particularly cheery.

hot flushes

Menopausal rant over ~ I feel a lot better already and I haven’t even got my neck-cooler out.

Annie Bee x

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I Have Miraculously Gained A Year

As my birthday approaches I checked the maths and realised I will be 52 and not the 53 which I had in my head. I am young !! When I mentioned this to Mr Bee, it transpired he also thought I was going to be 53. (As I said in a recent post, those anti-ageing creams do not seem to work and here we have the proof).

Imagine if we were all given an extra year in reality – what we do with it?  Learn a language? Write a book? Go and live abroad for 12 months?

Food for thought.

stylish older women

stylish older women

Have a super Easter weekend wherever you are.

Annie Bee x

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Is the Over 50s Woman Invisible?

I was out walking one morning this week and I passed a series of small groups of young women (in their 30s I guess) running the same route. Some of them acknowledged me, but many didn’t. Why should they? They don’t know me, I was looking pretty uninteresting (bedraggled some might say), there was no reason to chat (although a Hello is always nice). It struck me that maybe I have become invisible. To begin with I was appalled at this notion, but over the past few days I have come to realise that maybe it is a relief. It got me thinking once again about the whole ageing conundrum.

I don’t think there is a fear of ageing per se, I think we are scared of bad health as we age, and then the sure-fire death which awaits us all.

“I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens” ~ Woody Allen

The ageing process is unstoppable. Trying to slow it down accounts for a very lucrative market though: all told it is worth an estimated £180 billion globally this year. That is a lot of creams, procedures, supplements and corsetry. Does any of it work? Well not if my neck is anything to go by. Much of the wording around these products is noticebaly negative: ‘anti-ageing’, ‘skin corrector’ and ‘time delay’ all found in the first 20 pages of a magazine I have to hand, all appealing to our deep-seated insecurities. Well, you can run ladies, but you cannot hide. Ageing is here to stay.

Nora Ephron, in her autobiographical book of short essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck, wrote

Oh the necks. There are chicken necks. There are turkey-gobbler necks. There are elephant necks. There are necks with wattles and necks with creases that are on the verge of becoming wattles. There are scrawny necks and fat necks, loose necks, crêpey necks, banded necks, wrinkled necks, stringy necks, flabby necks, mottled necks…..You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if you had a neck.

If you are in your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or beyond and are as fit as a flea, your mindset won’t be in a negative loop about poor health and death. Or I hope it isn’t. But sadly there is a tendency that we start to hear bad news about friends in our and their sixth decades; people we know have heart attacks, strokes and get the news they have cancer. It can be a gloomy old time.

On the other hand, I would argue it is not all bad by any stretch of the imagination. The women I know in their 50s are more self-aware than ever before. We are savvy, accepting, stylish and have adjusted to life’s limitations and are ready to enter the FAB (fifties and beyond) era with grace and well-positioned scarves to hide the wattle. There are plenty of challenges (elderly parents, teenage children, an empty nest, menopause, divorce, health issues – take your pick) but I know I am much more capable in my 50s of dealing with these than I was in previous decades. No sensible shoes just yet then.

“It’s sad to grow old, but nice to ripen” ~ Brigitte Bardot

There is certainly truth in the adage that we are as old as we feel. Ageing is a process whereby at various stages we want it to go very fast  – small children want to be older so they can stay up later; teenagers want to be older so they can go to the pub with friends or learn to drive a car; in your twenties you perhaps want to be older in order to increase your earning power, or fulfil your career ambitions. Then later on we want to slow it down or halt it all together – neither is possible of course. There are limitations imposed right through the various decades, but it is surely about accepting them and embracing the constant adjustments we all end up making throughout our lives which will give us the greatest happiness.

Portrait of an Old Woman by Graham Brindley

Portrait of an Old Woman by Graham Brindley

There are a few blogs I like which show that style is still available to the older woman and that it is worthwhile not giving in just yet:

 http://thatsnotmyage.blogspot.co.uk/

http://agirlsguidetoturning50.blogspot.co.uk/

http://www.notdressedaslamb.com/

So no, we are not invisible. Is acceptance of our age and all it brings the answer? Or should we fight against it?

I am not sure. What do you think?

Breid Morris

Annie Bee x

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Why Doing Unpaid Voluntary Work Pays

charity pic

I was interested to research how many people like me, of 50+, do voluntary work. I am very lucky indeed to be able to devote a large proportion of my time to charity work, thanks to a GHWLSM (Generous Husband Who Largely Supports Me). I do work part-time but I can’t claim to be making much of a financial contribution to the household. For the record, I did hold down a Proper Job for many years – I even referred to it as a career, but it is so long ago now I can barely remember what I used to do. I realise just how lucky I am to be in this position, but it does mean that while I could in theory be at home buffing my nails or wandering around my garden with a trug, a glass of wine and a pair of secateurs, in fact I spend a massive amount of time giving to the Third Sector.

The definition of this sector (the first and second sectors being Private and Public) is ‘voluntary, not-for-profit and non-governmental’. While many are employed within it, there are huge numbers of people who get no financial reward at all for their involvement. In the UK, during the period 1998 until 2003, the voluntary and community sector employed around 550,000 workers. That number rose steadily between 2004 and 2010 reaching its highest point of just over 800,000 in 2010. What I can’t seem to find is a figure for the numbers of people who do the unpaid work in the Third Sector. When David Cameron launched The Big Society in 2009, the Third Sector became rather fashionable, but sadly that now looks to me to have been a fairly empty political slogan rather than a lasting legacy. I bandied it about at funding meetings for a couple of years but, certainly at the unglamorous end of the charity market I find myself in, it didn’t hold much water even back then.

The verb, volunteer, was first recorded in 1755. It was derived from the Middle English voluntaire and referred to ‘one who offers himself for military service’. According to the Volunteering Compact and Code of Good Practice, (Home Office, London, 2005), volunteering ‘is an activity that involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that aims to benefit the environment or someone (individuals or groups) other than, or in addition to, close relatives’. So who is this army of charity workers? Well, the age group which volunteers the most here in the UK are the 65 to 74 years olds. The figures below show the proportion of people volunteering by age group, 2012/13 (% of respondents), taken from the NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) website.

graph for 3rd sector blog

And what are the benefits of volunteering if you are lucky enough to have some spare time?

In an attempt to measure this positive effect on volunteers, Volunteering England commissioned the University of Wales to undertake a review of research on the subject. http://www.ivr.org.uk/ivr-news/133-volunteering-adn-health-what-impact-does-it-really-have . Dr Rachel Casiday, lecturer at the Department of Voluntary Sector Studies at the University of Wales, Lampeter, led the review. The findings showed that volunteering can lead to improved self-esteem and sense of purpose (I would agree with that) and also that being a volunteer extends your life expectancy, when compared to non-volunteers (hallelujah!  although I must say that some of my fellow volunteers in the charity I help at might find that surprising – laughable even – as our work often seems incredibly stressful, time-consuming and, frankly, a bit of a killer).

There is a charity for just about everything from bumblebee conservation to perianal support. In the UK there are just over 164,000 charities and people do some pretty crazy things to raise money for charity. Hello Stuart Kettell, who pushed a sprout up Mount Snowden last summer with his nose, to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

sprout

Then there’s the Australian Nick Le Souef who incarcerated himself and 300 deadly spiders in a shop window in Melbourne for three weeks, all to raise money for charity. He’s also done three-week stints in a snake pit, a shark tank and a cage with redback spiders. Children – don’t try this at home.

So whether you raise money for charities or are employed by one or work entirely unpaid, good on you. Here’s to a long and purposeful life.

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Annie Bee x

The Joys Of Being A 50+ Woman

When my friends and I turned 40, there was a spate of lovely girlfriend birthday parties and one favoured present was a packet of Tena incontinence pads. How we roared. Not so funny now we have hit 50, is it ladies? Things have started to – I am trying to think of a nice word here – loosen and slacken, droop and fall. Externally and (more alarmingly) internally. Chin hairs sprout overnight; if you are lucky you can plait them, put a scrunchy on them which matches that day’s outfit and go about your business.

Many of the challenges faced by the over 50s woman are linked to the menopause and the accompanying dwindling amount of oestrogen in your body, but as we are all living longer, we do need to learn to love this post-menopausal life, wrinkles and all. The average age in the UK when menopause hits is 51 and sadly there is very little scientific evidence to support complimentary therapies if you decide, like me, that HRT is not an option. Exercise and relaxation (yoga, mindfulness) are recommended as being helpful though. British women can expect to live more than 30 years post-menopause, so we do need to understand it and get help if we need to.

200380495-001

Two Professors at The Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London are currently doing research into the effects of the menopause on work performance. Like many women, I don’t work in the traditional office-based, 9 to 5 manner, but I certainly do have a huge amount of sympathy for those who are making critical business decisions, managing the P&L, and being responsible for other people’s careers, if they fall into the category of the 25% of women who have troublesome menopausal symptoms. Poor concentration, tiredness, poor memory and lowered confidence can all impact on your ability to perform in the workplace.

Interestingly attitudes to the menopause, and (surprisingly) symptoms, seem to vary around the world. If you want to read some in-depth info, this is a good source: http://www.menopausemgmt.com/cultural-differences-in-symptoms-and-attitudes-toward-menopause/

So what is the upside for us?

You can reinvent yourself in your 50s – you can wear what you like, be as quirky as you like, and you have probably settled into a very individual style of your own. You may not give a monkeys any more about what people think – you have opinions based on decades of wisdom and experience and you are probably not afraid to share them. Chances are your kids have just about flown the nest. Maybe it is time to take up pottery, change career path, start knitting, write a book, launch a new business, spend more time going to the theatre, take surfing lessons, train for a 5k run or learn how to upholster chairs. I hadn’t realised this, but you can join U3A (University of the Third Age) http://www.u3a.org.uk/ at any time you like.  Benefits galore.

elderly women going surfing in Oz

Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear from you.

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Annie Bee x

It’s Prestigious To Be Busy + Walking

I was listening to Ruby Wax being interviewed on Radio 4 last weekend  – an exhausting woman  (I was driving at the time and almost had to pull over and have a little rest)  – and she said, “It is prestigious to be busy these days” and she did not mean it kindly. So true. If you are not standing up (Sitting Down Is The New Smoking) you risk becoming a social pariah. I hear there are people lap-topping away on a treadmill as I write (attached to a string around their neck, like glasses perhaps?).

What’s it all about?

As I mentioned in a previous post about Calories In, Calories Out, you will know (we all know) that activity is very important to helping and maintaining weight-loss, and combining exercise into your life is the best way of doing this. Every magazine/newspaper  I read tackles the subject ceaselessly  and it is a very big business (in the UK alone the diet business is thought to be worth £2bn). You might be sick to death of hearing about it, but the great news for all of us, but particularly for women over 50, is that walking is fine.This information is from The Guardian :

“Brisk walking reduces the risk of heart disease more effectively than running when the energy expenditure of both activities is balanced out, a study has found.

Researchers compared data from two studies of 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers. For the same amount of energy used, walkers experienced greater health benefits than runners.

The effects on participants, who were aged 18 to 80, were observed over a period of six years.

Running reduced the risk of heart disease by 4.5% while walking reduced it by 9.3%.

Calorie for calorie, walking also had a stronger impact on heart disease risk factors. The risk of first-time high blood pressure was reduced by 4.2% by running and 7.2% by walking.

First-time high cholesterol risk was lowered by 4.3% by running and 7% by walking.

The risk of first-time diabetes was reduced by about 12% by both walking and running.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said study leader Dr Paul Williams, from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California.

“The more the runners ran, and the walkers walked, the better off they were in health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable.

“People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health.”

The research is reported in the American Heart Association journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology”. 

This is fabulous news for people like me for whom The “R” Word (as my beautiful friend Christine used to call it) does not tend to fit into their daily list of exercise. But we can all have a brisk walk and indeed very recent research from the University of Cambridge suggests that just 20 minutes a day has a big impact http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jan/14/scientists-recommend-20-minute-daily-walk-premature-death

Hooray! Cancel my order for that treadmill for the study; no need to pretend that I can see a computer screen while on the move. And have a good look at Ms Beckham’s shoes below. Someone needs to have a word. It will end in tears.

treadmill work 2    treadmill pic

And finally, I can highly recommend the Nike+Running App (ignore The “R” Word) https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/nike-gps/id387771637?mt=8.  I use it mainly to check how far I have gone and it keeps a record of the walks which I find very motivating.
Happy walking!

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Annie Bee x

https://uk.pinterest.com/buzzanniebee/exercise-work/

The Menopause Can Last HOW LONG?

The menopause is the gift that just keeps on giving. I do remember vast swathes of the 1970’s taken up by my Mum talking about how awful it was, but I was too young and selfish to care. How that smile has been wiped off my face. A friend of mine recently announced, at an otherwise very nice lunch, that her menopause had so far lasted 7 years. You could have stabbed the rest of us with our dinner forks and put us out of our misery right there. Seven years? How is that possible?

When mine first started I admit to finding the hot flushes quite interesting – how is it that my body is managing to do this spectacularly weird thing? By the way, on this side of the pond, we refer to them (hot flushes) in that slightly quiet, polite British manner; in the US they call them “hot flashes” which seems about right if, like me, when you are in the throes of one, you literally strip off layers of clothing without a thought for your whereabouts (the fruit and veg aisle at the supermarket, or – worse – driving along a motorway at speed). It didn’t take long for that initial wonderment to wear off. Here I am several years later, still lurching from interrupted sleep to stripping off in front of astonished strangers to asking the GP whether I have early onset dementia. My metabolism is slower than Titanic swerving round the iceberg, and I put on weight just at the mention of the word ‘menu’.

The list of symptoms women can suffer from is long and does not make happy reading. This is from the NHS website:

  • hot flushes and night sweats
  • loss of libido (sex drive)
  • vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
  • palpitations (heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable)
  • headaches
  • mood changes, such as depression, anxiety or tiredness
  • sleeping problems, such as insomnia
  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Is that all? Any more you want to throw at us?

I can have no symptoms at all for several months, and I start to congratulate myself on getting to the end of the menopause in such a stylish and graceful manner. Next minute it’s back with a vengeance and I am shattered from lack of sleep and googling whether taking soy supplements could possibly help.

Most of the treatments on offer fall into two camps: firstly, taking medicines (one of which is  HRT) and secondly, ‘self-help’ which is essentially eating healthily and exercising. The third option is Suck It Up. I favour this but also occasionally enjoy a good moan about yet another reason why being a woman can be rather difficult. Is there an upside? Let me think …………

No

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Annie Bee x

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seven-dwarves-menopause-funny-cartoon