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Linda Lusardi Explains How She Coped With The Menopause

Question: How does a busy actress cope with the changes that come with the menopause? Answer: Linda Lusardi talks about how she was at first unbelieving and finally accepting of the changes that come with ‘the change’.

Linda Lusardi

The menopause caught actress Linda Lusardi unawares.

“I was doing panto in Northampton three years ago and kept getting really hot at night. I drove my husband Sam mad, complaining that the heating was turned up too high and the quilt was too thick. When he suggested I might be going through the change I was most offended.

“Like a lot of women I was in denial. How could I be going through the menopause? I didn’t feel old enough.” However, over the next few months it became clear that Linda, now 56, was going through ‘the change’.

Hot flushes were a particular problem. “A mad panic would come over me and I had to get my coat off,” says Linda. “If I was driving I would have to pull over, get out of the car and get as many clothes off as I could decently do. It felt like burning up from the inside.

Friends suggested herbal remedies and she tried many but none helped. “The next panto came around and I was having difficulty remembering my lines. I did not have my usual spark. When the season finished I went to the doctor and he prescribed HRT,” says Linda.

“It worked wonders – within about three months I was back to normal. I also take an Omega7 supplement that lubricates the joints and improves dry eyes, dry mouth, dry skin, and dryness that comes with the menopause. My skin and health has never been better, but nevertheless I found the only positive element of the menopause was no monthly periods.”

So what message would Linda pass on to other women?

“Some people sail through the menopause hardly noticing it, as my sister and my mother did. As for me, I tried not to let it disrupt my life, but it did,” she says.

“Women should do what is right for them. If symptoms stop you enjoying your life consider herbal remedies. My sister-in-law controlled her hot flushes with herbal remedies very successfully.

“There is no shame in going on HRT, though it is not for people with a history of breast cancer. My doctor suggested trying to give it a break after three years to see if the symptoms are still there, but so far I haven’t been brave enough to try!”

A Long Healthy Life is Possible if You Take Care of Yourself

“People are being kept alive with medical breakthroughs but can have a poor quality of life with chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, kidney failure and other problems,” says Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical consultant to Patient.co.uk.

Dr Sarah Jarvis
Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP and clinical consultant, Patient

Dr Jarvis has been a GP for 23 years, with a practice in Shepherd’s Bush, West London. She is passionate about educating the public about health through radio, television, magazines and books.

“Ironically, we are victims of our own success,” she says. “Medical innovations are keeping people alive. Death rates from heart disease have more than halved in the UK in the last 20 years. Consequently people are living longer with conditions we can’t cure.

“No matter what condition you’ve got, the management of that condition is down to you. You will only have a few hours every year with a medical professional; the rest of the time requires self-management. People have to be engaged in their own care.

“No matter what condition you’ve got, the management of that condition is down to you… People have to be engaged in their own care”
“But prevention is so much better than cure and GP’s have now doubled their role. Once we saw people who were ill and we sorted them out. But these days we also do health promotion and disease prevention.

“Obesity is the biggest cause of health problems. It has escalated in the last eight years and 90 per cent of people who get Type 2 diabetes are obese. The rise in cancer is linked to obesity and alcohol and every unit of alcohol you drink a day increases your risk of cancer by 7 to 11 per cent.” Obesity impacts fertility, according to Dr Jarvis. “The more overweight you are, the more trouble you will have conceiving. And women are trying to get pregnant much later. We may believe we are independent and equal but when it comes to fertility we are not.”

If you are too young, you are more likely to have problems with pregnancy, both medical and psychological, or if you are too old, you can have difficulty conceiving. Fertility starts to drop quite steeply from the age of 35. Women cannot assume that pregnancy will happen after the age of 35. Then there are urinary incontinence issues, which affect as many as 1 in 3 women after childbirth — and 40 per cent of women going through the menopause.

“Menopause has become a problem in last 10 years because studies such as the Million Women Study and the Women’s Health Initiative have suggested that HRT may do more harm than good.” She adds: “Women are at greater risk of depression because our brain hemispheres are more connected which allows women to multi-task and not switch off. And, whether it’s nature or upbringing and society or a combination, women tend to be nurturers and worry about everyone else and neglect themselves.”

Dr Jarvis has advice for women of all ages. “It’s not rocket science. All the common sense messages apply. They may be dull but they are true; eat a healthy, balanced diet, don’t eat more calories than you expend, don’t drink alcohol to excess and be free not to drink alcohol at all if you don’t want to. Use reliable contraception, exercise regularly and be nice to yourself!

“It can seem daunting, but working out where you’re doing well and how you can target areas for improvement can make all the difference.

Using a web tool like the Patient.co.uk ‘my health tool’ can help you introduce changes that could make all the difference to your long term quality of life.”

Angelina Jolie Raises Awareness of Genetic Cancer Link

Angelina’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy as a carrier of the faulty BRCA gene mutation put the issue in the spotlight; however a report shows it’s had little impact on the number of women with a family history being genetically tested.

Angelina Jolie

The study by medical research charity Ovarian Cancer Action to mark Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month (March) shows that while almost 90% of women are aware of the Angelina story, and more than 90% understood her decision to undergo the double mastectomy, only one in ten were then prompted by it to look into their own family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Of those that did look into their family history, only 2% had a genetic test for the BRCA gene mutation, while a third found it difficult to find out information about their family’s history of ovarian and breast cancer.

15% of women said they felt nervous about discussing the subject of breast / ovarian cancer with their immediate family, while 1 in 6 said they felt afraid of discussing it.

More than 60% say they are not aware of where to get more info about genetic testing, while

63% have not heard of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation.

A family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer may indicate that there is the presence of a BRCA1/2 mutation, which increases the risk of getting ovarian cancer from 1 in 54 to 1 in 2.

The message for ALL women, especially those with a significant family history of either breast and/or ovarian cancer, is to be ‘BRCA aware’ by checking out their family medical history. It could save their life.

Known as the most deadly gynecological cancers – ovarian cancer kills 1 woman every 2 hours here in the UK and with 7,000 new UK diagnoses each year. A shocking 32% of ovarian cancer patients in the UK are diagnosed each year through an emergency route.

There’s currently no screening tool for ovarian cancer and symptoms are often confused by both women and doctors for other conditions. Of the women surveyed, more than half were unaware that persistent stomach pains and bloating could be a sign. Likewise 60% were unaware increased stomach size, 85% difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, and 80% needing to urinate more frequently were clear signs of ovarian cancer.

The charity is also launching its BRCA Risk Tool – an online risk calculator @ovarian.org.uk – designed to help people make more informed choices about whether BRCA1/2 testing should be considered.

Facts about ovarian cancer

  • Known as the most deadly of the gynecological cancers  – and currently the 5th most common cancer among women
  • 1 woman every 2 hours dies from the disease in the UK
  • 7,000 new UK diagnoses each year
  • A shocking 32% of ovarian cancer patients in the UK are diagnosed each year through emergency services

The four main symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Persistent bloating or increased stomach size
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to urinate more frequently

The key features of the symptoms of ovarian cancer are:

  • Their persistency – they don’t go away
  • Their frequency – they occur on most days
  • They are new – they started in the last 12 months
  • They are unusual – they are not normal for you

5 Labour Myths Debunked

Fact or fiction? We look at five popular misconceptions about labour and birth and give you the facts.

Labour Myths

MYTH 1. When you are due, home remedies such as drinking castor oil, eating curry or pineapple will help to get labour started.

The thought behind this is that these will stimulate the digestive system, and in turn the uterus, but there is no evidence that any of these will work. You are much more likely to end up with diarrhoea or heartburn.

MYTH 2. Having a ‘show’ means you are in labour

Although a ‘show’ (when the plug of mucus that has been protecting your uterus from infection during your pregnancy is discharged from the vagina) is a sign that the cervix is softening, it doesn’t mean that labour has begun. Labour may not start for a few days, and in some cases, a few weeks after a show.

MYTH 3. Your waters breaking will be dramatic

When the amniotic sac (the bag of fluid your baby has been growing in) ruptures, the amniotic fluid drains out through the vagina. This is more likely to be a slow or constant trickle, certainly at first – a big dramatic gush is a lot less common. Once your waters have broken there is a risk of infection, so if your contractions haven’t started naturally after 24-48 hours induction of labour may be offered.

MYTH 4. A second labour is a lot less painful

The cervix, pelvic floor muscles and birth canal have already been stretched by the first birth so it’s true that second and subsequent labours tend to be shorter. But this doesn’t make them any less painful – they just don’t last as long.

MYTH 5. You have to have a C-section is you are having twins

Although more than half of all twins in the UK are born by Caesarean, it is perfectly possible to have a vaginal birth if there are no complications. If the first twin is in a head down position a vaginal birth should be possible.

Coping with labour

Wherever you plan to give birth, it will be easier for you to rest and relax at home during the early labour stage.
Try to get as much rest as you can, even if you can’t sleep, as this will help you to cope better with the second stage of labour.

Dr. Shauna Fannin (MRCP, FRCGP), Chair of the Emma’s Diary Editorial Board, said: “If women have any worries about labour or giving birth they should discuss these with their midwife or doctor, who will be able to give them the facts and reassure them.”

The Emotional Burden of Infertility

Kate BrianThe turmoil of emotions caused by infertility has significant, often overlooked, effects on people’s life . But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Kate Brian, of Infertility Network UK.

Kate Brian

Fertility Problems

Brian explains: “The emotional impact of fertility problems is absolutely huge. It affects every single moment of your waking life. But, unless it happens to you or someone close to you, it is often underestimated. And yet, for most people their children are the most important thing in life, so not to be able to have that can be devastating.”

Depression is very common. And so are feelings of failure and of having let down partners and family, adds Brian. “There is a lot of blaming yourself, wondering what you did wrong, and why it happened to you.”

Quite shockingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, in a survey by Infertility Network UK about a fifth of participants said they had suicidal thoughts because of difficulties conceiving To make matters worse, fertility problems are something affected people don’t always want to talk about. And so the sense of isolation can be overwhelming.

Life on Hold

“We often don’t realise that infertility affects life choices,” says Brian. “People literally put their life on hold. They may not apply for a new job, move house, or go on holiday, because they might be pregnant by then or because they are saving up to pay for more fertility treatment.”

Widespread Misunderstanding

Brian says a major problem is that there is a general misunderstanding of the issues surrounding infertility. “We see women who haven’t really understood how quickly their fertility declines with age and, perhaps more importantly, who are under the false impression that fertility treatment can turn back this decline. The reality is that, once you are in your 40s, particularly after 42 years of age, treatments like in vitro fertilisation, or IVF, may not always be effective, because they cannot turn back the biological clock.”

Promoting Awareness and Education

“We would like to see more education about fertility awareness in schools,” says Brian. “A recent survey for Infertility Network UK found that many young people don’t know when they are most likely to conceive.”

You Are Not Alone

She adds that information is key for people who have conceiving as this can help them to regain some of the control that they may feel they may have lost.

“Counselling is also extremely important, as are support groups and talking to other people who are in the same situation. We shouldn’t forget that, in the UK alone, there are around 3.5 million people who have fertility problems. Just being able to share your experience can be incredibly helpful, partly because it makes you realise that you are not alone.

“What is helpful for one person may not be helpful for another. But once you have identified the type of support that works best for you, the benefits can be remarkable.”

New Menopause Treatment Guidelines Cut Through the Confusion

The new NICE guideline on diagnosis and management of the menopause cut through the confusion and deliver the message that treatment starts with the individual woman.

Dr Heather Currie

Menopause Treatment

Menopause treatment should be tailored to the individual woman. That’s the number one message of the latest NICE guidelines on diagnosis and management of the menopause – and about time too.

“All women are different and so are their experiences of the menopause and how they respond to treatment. These new guidelines put what is best for each individual woman at the forefront,” says Dr Heather Currie, Chair of the British Menopause Society.

The new guidelines offer women clear, evidence-based information to break through the conflict and confusion about menopause treatments. They reject a one-size-fits-all approach and instead recommend that treatment decisions should take into account a woman’s individual symptoms, past history, family history, diet, lifestyle and individual preferences and concerns.

Doctors should place more emphasis on explaining to women the stages and consequences of the menopause, which extends beyond flushes and sweats to include psychological symptoms, musculo-skeletal, vaginal, bladder and sexual effects, as well as long-term effects on bone and cardiovascular health.

On diagnosis, the guidelines suggest that blood tests to diagnose menopause or perimenopause in women over 45 be abandoned, as the level of hormone tested fluctuates significantly and bears no relationship to severity of symptoms. “Reducing this inappropriate testing will free up time for consultation and reduce treatment delays, as well as saving money,” says Dr Currie.

Discussing Options

All treatments types should be discussed and advice given about maintaining general health by stopping smoking,  losing weight, reducing alcohol consumption and increasing levels of exercise if appropriate.

On the controversial subject of HRT, the guidelines suggest it should be offered, after consideration of benefits and risks, for symptoms such as flushes and sweats, since it was shown to be the most effective treatment with minimal risks. They suggest that vaginal estrogen should be offered for urogenital symptoms.

For low mood, the guidelines say that doctors should not routinely offer clonidine or antidepressants and that HRT or cognitive behavioural therapy be considered instead.

Dr Currie says: “For the first time, leading experts have examined all of the existing evidence and presented information and advice which will enable women to better understand the consequences of the menopause and make informed choices about treatment.

“Women deserve high-quality information on their choices. While too much information may be confusing for women, who may want their health professional to tell them what’s best, managing the menopause is an area of medicine that is truly individual. We hope this guidance will empower both health professionals and women to work together on deciding the best treatment options for them. “

How to be Middle-Aged and Menopausal Without Going Insane

Jenny Eclair

Self-confessed ‘Grumpy Old Woman’ and comedian Jenny Eclair talks car rage, mismatching underwear and the hobbies that saved her life as she struggled with her menopause.

Comedian and novelist Jenny Eclair speaks about the menopause not as an expert but as a woman who has experienced it, and who thinks it deserves to be aired.

“There are still some very old-fashioned attitudes,” she says, citing a GP who referred to her vagina as her ‘downstairs’.

Jenny Eclair Quote“It’s never been a taboo subject for me,” says Jenny, who describes her decision to take Hormone Replacement Therapy as “that or Holloway”, due to the extreme rage – “car rage… danger to myself rage” – she experienced as a result of her hormone changes. Of the medication, she says: “It‘s turned me into the woman I should always have been… but with the thickest hair and nails”.

For a woman who has made a living about sharing life experiences with audiences numbering into hundreds, it is hardly surprising that Jenny doesn’t find it difficult to share her own menopause experience.

Of course, she can understand why others do. “There are still some very old-fashioned attitudes,” she says, citing a GP who referred to her vagina as her ‘downstairs’. However, once you start to talk about the menopause you realise there is a very wide spectrum of experience, she says. “The most important thing to remember is that if you need help with your menopausal symptoms, make sure you get it.”

Jenny describes as her “lifesaver” hobbies such as art and embroidery, and spending time in or near water. She says: “It’s hard to be bad-tempered in water.” She has also taken a lot of pleasure from being able to do charitable work, such as supporting a prison charity.

Equally important, she believes, is to be able to surround yourself with a good social support network. When asked about the upside of middle age, Jenny says that women become more supportive to each other:

“We have stopped being in competition with each other, we don’t want that dream job or man anymore –even if they were still up for grabs.”

She also reflects that by middle age, there is shared experience of the ‘big life’ stuff, like parents dying, children growing up, the heartbreak of downsizing or of not being able to downsize because the children won’t or can’t leave home. And, she says, there is shared sympathy with the “haunted-looking” middle-aged woman in the supermarket on late Christmas Eve or early Christmas Day, who’s clearly forgotten to buy the turkey…

“The most important thing to remember is that if you need help with your menopausal symptoms, make sure you get it.”

For women of this “certain age”, Jenny’s latest show ‘How to Be A Middle-Aged Woman (Without Going Insane)’ is not only entertaining, it’s a safe haven almost universally made up of women of the same certain age. Here, women can share their admiration for 56-year-old Jenny who appears in publicity material for the show dressed only in bra and mismatched knickers.

Together they can enjoy Jenny’s characters such as Menopause Woman “who would fly around the world in her bra and pants with a pinny tied under her chin like a cloak”, or whose hot flushes can be put to good use by getting rid of those expensive patio heaters in pub gardens and employing middle-aged women to circulate around to heat things up.”

In the middle-aged woman’s world, the idea of being paid for that in Chardonnay tokens will always go down well.

How Menopause and Urinary Incontinence are Related

Menopause can often create new experiences to you with some of them difficult to deal with, for example; there may be weight gain, hot sweats, mood swings and much more.

Menopause and Incontinence

One difficulty you may experience with the menopause is an overactive or sensitive bladder. If you do experience this, be assured that you are not alone as urinary incontinence is quite a common issue for menopausal women.

Regardless of how common this issue is, an overactive bladder can be embarrassing and hard to live with, your personal life can be affected as well as your exercise routine and your social life may become affected. To overcome these issues, you need to find the right incontinence solutions and products to suit you.

Never Lose Hope

It is important to know that urinary incontinence can be treated, sometimes cured or at the least properly managed. What you should not do is ignore the problem and hope that it goes away. This will rarely go away on its own and will often become worse over time.

It is better to educate yourself about why you are experiencing incontinence and how it is connected to menopause. It is important to know what the symptoms of this are, the reasons for it and what you can do to treat this.

The Symptoms of Menopausal Incontinence

There are a number of common signs of a menopausal sensitive bladder and you need to know what they are. The first sign is that you leak urine when you exercise, cough or sneeze. Another sign is when you leak urine on your way to the bathroom. Waking up more than twice during the night to urinate and frequent urinary tract infections will also be signs of this problem.

The Common Causes of a Menopausal Sensitive Bladder

There are a few reasons why you might be having urinary incontinence during menopause. It is important to know what some of the most common reasons will be.

Weak pelvic floor muscles are the first cause that you should know about. Your pelvic floor muscles will naturally weaken during menopause. However, when this happens you will have less bladder control, and this will cause more frequent urination in menopausal women.

A prolapse during menopause will be when organs start to sag against the pelvic floor. There are some women who describe feeling a lump in the vagina where the organ is sagging against the pelvic floor. The organ that is sagging could be the bladder, the uterus or the bowel. Prolapse will cause strain on the pelvic floor.

Another cause will be a reduction in bladder elasticity. The elasticity at the base of the bladder could slacken and this will cause problems as it cannot stretch correctly to accommodate the liquid that fills it. This will result in your bladder being irritated as it fills which will cause the sensation of an overactive bladder. This will make you feel like going to the bathroom more than you need.

When menopause starts, estrogen will no longer be produced by the body. When this happens, your body will become more susceptible to incontinence as estrogen helps to keep the tissues around the bladder strong. The lack of estrogen can cause the bladder to stop working in the way that it was.

There are many women who suffer from weight gain during menopause. This will affect your pelvic floor muscles as they support much of your body weight. When these muscles are strained by excess weight, they will not be able to support your bladder correctly which leads to stress incontinence.

How to Manage Urinary Incontinence

The first step you should take in managing your urinary incontinence is to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with contraction exercises. You should also try and stay as close to your normal healthy weight as possible. To protect against urinary tract infections, you will need to keep up with personal hygiene, be careful when you wipe and ensure that you drink fluids (preferable water) on a regular basis.

These management methods will work, but the overall effectiveness will depend on the cause of your incontinence. This is why you need to talk to your doctor when you see the first signs of urinary incontinence. They will be able to diagnose the cause and offer additional treatment options if you need them. You could ask your doctor about training or surgery that could treat a prolapse or find out if there are any other underlying causes for your overactive bladder.

Incontinence products such as disposable pads, pants and nappies are readily available, you can even purchase washable pants and knickers that look and feel just like normal underwear but have a built-in absorbent pad to help manage light leakage.

Regardless of the route, you take to treat this, you need to keep in mind that many women have bladder control issues at this stage of their life. Having a sensitive bladder does not have to take over your your day-today activities and get in the way of living a fulfilling life.

Related Article: We Need to Talk About Incontinence

Spotting the Signs of Breast Cancer

Carol Micklethwaite, 45, from Barnsley, was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2012 after noticing some discharge from her nipple.

Carol Mickelthwaite

Here’s what Carol had to say…

“I always knew it was important to know all the signs of breast cancer, but it was looking for a lump that always sprang to mind.

“Then after a workout in the gym one morning I noticed a tiny spot of red discharge from my nipple when changing. I had no other symptoms, but thought it was a bit unusual so at the end of the week I went to see my GP.

“It never crossed my mind it could be breast cancer, so when I was diagnosed I was totally stunned. Even when I told people, many assumed I’d found a lump.

“It’s so crucial that even if someone finds the slightest change and it just doesn’t seem right, they go and see their GP. I’m so glad that I did and was able to be treated quickly.”