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.

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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

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

https://uk.pinterest.com/buzzanniebee/menopause/

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