In the latest Overture Coffee Live series, Dr. Anne Henderson, a consultant gynecologist specialising in menopause and author of Natural Menopause, shared her extensive knowledge on women’s health. With over 35 years of experience, Dr. Henderson has devoted her career to understanding and addressing various aspects of women’s health, including menopause, breast health, hormonal imbalances, and more. Her passion led her to establish the Amara Clinic in Tunbridge Wells, UK, which offers comprehensive women’s health services led by women for women.
Throughout the interview, Dr. Henderson discussed the complex relationship between hormones and mental health. She highlighted that fluctuating hormone levels, particularly those involving estrogen, contribute to mood swings, PMS, postnatal depression, and menopause-related depression. Hormonal fluctuations also impact gynecological conditions such as PMS, PMDD, postnatal depression, PCOS, and endometriosis, all of which present different symptoms depending on the specific condition.
Dr. Henderson explained that PCOS, a hormonal disorder affecting many women, can lead to long-term consequences such as insulin resistance, a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, weight gain, and subfertility. However, the severity of PCOS symptoms and their impact on an individual can vary greatly. In light of this, she emphasised the importance of regular health screenings like cervical screening and mammography for early detection and intervention.
In the UK, cervical screening occurs every three years for women aged 25-65, and every five years for those between 50 and 65 due to the more accurate HPV screening method. Mammography is conducted every three years for women aged 50-65, with some regions starting at 47. Women with a higher family risk of breast cancer, identified through genetic counseling or a history of first-degree relatives with breast cancer, may receive yearly mammograms from age 40. However, this is offered by the NHS only if a woman has been assessed as high risk. Thus, screening frequency depends on family risk and specialist advice.
Menopausal symptoms differ between various stages, from perimenopause to postmenopause. Perimenopause typically occurs between ages 45 and 55, and symptoms can continue for several years or even the rest of a woman’s life, with a genetic predisposition possibly being a factor. Inquiries and referrals to Dr. Henderson’s practice mostly relate to psychological symptoms such as anxiety, mood disorders, panic attacks, irritability, and aggression. Brain fog, characterized by impaired short-term concentration, focus, memory loss, and disrupted speech flow, is the second most prevalent issue.
To manage menopausal symptoms, Dr. Henderson emphasizes the importance of adopting a holistic approach that includes fitness, nutrition, mental well-being, and complementary therapies. She supports the use of herbal medicine or HRT alongside these lifestyle changes to break the vicious cycle that can make it challenging for women to find relief. Furthermore, education and support for men, partners, and the workplace play a crucial role in providing effective support during menopause.
Premature menopause (before age 40) and early menopause (before age 45) carry additional long-term health risks, such as premature osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. For women experiencing premature or early menopause, HRT is highly recommended, and they should be treated exclusively by menopause specialists due to the complexities and additional health risks associated with early and premature menopause.
Moreover, Dr. Henderson emphasized the significance of tailoring treatments to individual needs, as each woman’s experience with menopause and gynecological conditions is unique. She encouraged women to communicate their symptoms and concerns to their healthcare providers, as this collaboration can lead to more effective and personalized treatment plans.
One crucial aspect of women’s health that Dr. Henderson addressed is the role of the support system, including partners, family members, friends, and coworkers. By involving those closest to the women experiencing menopause or other health challenges, we can foster understanding, empathy, and support that can make a real difference in their lives. Education is vital not only for women but also for those around them, as informed support can lead to more meaningful relationships and a stronger network of care.
Dr. Henderson also highlighted the importance of self-care, which includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, stress management, and sleep hygiene. By prioritizing one’s well-being, women can build resilience, improve mood, and enhance their overall quality of life. Self-care, combined with medical interventions and complementary therapies, can result in a comprehensive and effective approach to managing menopause and other women’s health challenges. Dr. Henderson also stresses the importance of regular self-examination and awareness of changes in breast appearance, condition, and color. Proper education and guidance are essential for effective self-examination and early detection of pre-cancerous conditions or cancers.
Plans for the future
Although the UK is ahead in terms of menopause education and treatment, there is still a need for mandatory menopause training for GPs to bridge the disparity between patient knowledge and healthcare practitioner expertise. To further aid in menopause education, Dr. Henderson revealed plans to collaborate with a publisher to create a concise, fact-packed pocket book on menopause for busy women. This invaluable resource will provide easy access to essential information for those experiencing menopause symptoms.
In advocating for improved education and resources, Dr. Henderson’s work serves as a valuable reminder that knowledge is power. As more women and their support networks become better informed about the intricacies of women’s health, they will be better equipped to advocate for themselves, seek appropriate treatment, and take control of their health journey. The collaboration between healthcare professionals, patients, and their support systems is essential for promoting and maintaining women’s health throughout their lives.
Ultimately, Dr. Anne Henderson’s interview and her continued dedication to women’s health demonstrate the significance of comprehensive, evidence-based, and patient-centered care in promoting well-being and improving outcomes for women worldwide. By sharing her expertise and advocating for better education and resources, she contributes to a brighter future for women and their health.
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