Continuing healthy aging through motherhood and beyond

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It is possible to feel good and be resilient in times of stress, including the stressful time of menopause transition. The body changes of menopause can be detrimental to individual women, her community and the workplace. With Mother’s Day on May 10 and Women’s Health Week from May 10-16, addressing the impact of menopause is good for all in West Michigan.

When a woman crosses into menopause, her health is essentially as good as it is going to get. Menopause symptoms — which include hot flashes, low sec drive and mood changes — affect the quality of life for 80% of women, according to a 2015 study.

Menopause body changes lead to a dramatic increase in risk for obesity, heart attack, diabetes and depression. Because of this, hot flashes can be used to signal it is time to assess risk factors and make decisions about a woman’s health goals, lifestyle choices and treatment options. For example, estrogen is safer than many people think. Estrogen use early in menopause can reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease without increasing risk for breast cancer and while improving quality of life or a plant-based diet could reduce risk of heart attack.

The symptoms of perimenopause and menopause also can impact the bottom line for businesses. Scientific review of insurance claim data shows women with untreated symptoms of menopause — hot flashes, night sweats — had 57% fewer days of productive work, were more likely to miss days at work and have more medical office and ER visits with increased medical costs of $1,346 per patient per year, according to a 2015 study. Health care visits for women with symptoms totaled more than $340 million in direct cost, and the total cost of lost work was $28 million.

Experts say these symptoms and the related health consequences lead women to be more likely to leave the workforce or have their careers affected just at the time of potential upswing or promotion. Companies would benefit from increased attention to the benefits of addressing employee health needs around the menopause transition.

Menopause also affects our community by its effect on a woman’s sense of self, her work life and her family life. It is time to expand the conversation and better care for our community. Menopause happens to all women, either naturally around age 52 or prematurely as a result of cancer treatment or removal of the ovaries due to surgery for cancer or benign conditions such as fibroids or endometriosis.

Women benefit when they are empowered with knowledge about symptoms and treatment options, including targeted lifestyle choices, hormone or other medication, or therapies such as acupuncture. Women whose symptoms are treated spend less time going to the doctor, more time engaged in activities and less prone to chronic illness. West Michigan-based True Women’s Health, a midlife, menopause and sexual health wellness clinic, aims to equip women with the right tools and resources to support optimal health for each patient through the good and the bad times.

With Mother’s Day and Women’s Health Week in mind, it is crucial to continue healthy aging year-round. As a patient of mine who survived breast cancer and works as a supervisor on a factory floor said, “The SEEDS (Seven Essential Elements of Daily Success) and medication you prescribed saved me. I am back and happy with my new normal.”

She and others like her have proven to me that all women deserve choices on how to cope with their menopause journey, which is the ultimate goal for our True Women’s Health patients. When this happens, the whole community will benefit.

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