My Quest Hub
Menopause Awareness Month
Pat Duckworth is a Women’s Wellbeing and Workplace Menopause Strategist, Author and International Public Speaker. After over 30 years working in the public sector at a Senior Management Level, Pat retrained with The Quest Institute as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist.
She is passionate about how it can help people with a range of issues including the symptoms of menopause.
Pat has published five books about menopause including the Award-winning ‘Hot Women, Cool Solutions: How to control menopause symptoms using mind/body techniques.’
Her latest book, ‘Menopause: Mind the Gap – the value of supporting women’s health in the workplace’ was published in January 2021 and has been highly acclaimed.
Pat is a sought-after speaker for podcasts, workshops and events. She has spoken at events around the world including America, Singapore, India, Iceland, The Netherlands, Denmark and Spain.
Caring for Your Heart
There has been so much written and talked about menopause over the past couple of years you might think that there is nothing left to say. You might imagine that women now have all the knowledge they need to navigate this natural stage of life.
I co-host a Menopause Café in my local town and I know from the conversations I hear there that women are still confused about what is happening to their bodies and minds. They are even more confused about their options for treatment and the contradictory information they receive.
That’s why October’s Menopause Awareness Month and World Menopause Day on 18 October is still so relevant and needed. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of menopause and the support options available for improving health and wellbeing. The International Menopause Society (IMS) set the theme every year and encourage professionals and women to participate in promoting this global event.
The theme for World Menopause Day 2023 (https://www.imsociety.org/education/world-menopause-day/) is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). The risk for CVD in women increases with age such as it does in men, but the increase starts a little later in women. Most CVD in women occurs during the years after menopause. Premature menopause, that is menopause that occurs before age 40, is an established risk factor for CVD.
One of the causes is that cholesterol levels have been found to increase in the early years after menopause. I feel this personally as I have just had a routine blood test and discovered that I have raised cholesterol level. It came as quite a shock as I am generally healthy, eat well and exercise regularly – all factors I associate with high cholesterol.
Despite the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women post-menopause and is more likely to kill them than all forms of cancer combined, women remain largely unaware of the risk. So, it is very timely that this is the theme for WMD 2023.
Risk Factors for CVD
The development of CVD is a multifactorial issue. Some of the factors that increase the risk of heart disease are:
- Family history
- High blood pressure
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- Physical inactivity
- Being overweight or obese
For women at menopause, the changes in the reproductive hormones can lead to the accumulation of fat, particularly around the belly, giving rise to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. The role of hormone therapy to reduce the risk of CVD is not straightforward. The efficacy depends on the age women enter menopause, their overall health, and family medical history.
Some risk factors are outside of your control. You can’t change your age, ethnicity, genetics and family history. I have discovered that my high cholesterol is probably a familial issue and it would be a good idea for my son to have a blood test even though he is very active and healthy. However, there are lots of actions that you can take and, as we say in Cognitive Hypnotherapy, ‘Focus on what you can control’.
The best time to start taking action is today – no matter how old you are. The most effective ways to prevent heart disease include:
- quit smoking,
- be physically active (150 minutes per week),
- eat a healthy diet including consumption of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy,
- maintain a healthy weight,
- limit salt, sugar and alcohol consumption,
- get enough sleep,
- keep cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels under control and
- manage stress.
These lifestyle changes can be highly effective but few people are good at following all of them. If that’s a problem for you it could be time to seek help.
Strategies for Better Sleep
Poor sleep alone doesn’t cause a heart attack, but it increases your risk of many health issues including low mood, anxiety, brain fog, weight gain and susceptibility to viruses and infections.
Good sleep can be an early victim of the hormonal changes around menopause. The years around menopause can be a very busy time for women. They may be dealing with children getting ready to leave home, ageing parents, work pressures and relationship issues plus all of the physical and emotional changes connected with hormonal fluctuations.
I know from my conversations with women clients that they are generally not good at self-care. They say to me, “I always put my family’s needs first” and “I don’t have any time to look after myself even though I know I should”. The lack of self-care can lead to neglecting sleep issues and self-medicating with alcohol. That ‘cheeky glass of wine’ in the evening becomes the only way to relax and get to sleep.
Learning healthy strategies to relax and soothe yourself to sleep can create the foundation for increased wellness and a healthier heart. Some ideas that you can fit into your busy schedule:
- Learn some breathing techniques that only take a few minutes to practice and relax your body to prepare for rejuvenating sleep.
- Review your nutrition. Eliminate foods that can inhibit sleep such as high sugar content foods, and caffeine. Include foods that aid sleep such as almonds, bananas, flaxseeds (linseeds), dark green leafy vegetables, quinoa, and dark cherries
- Eliminate or reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol disrupts the natural sleep pattern.
- Stop smoking
- Do some yoga or gentle stretches before you go to bed.
- Reduce your stress by using basic time-management techniques such as creating a to do list, prioritising your tasks and limiting your exposure to social media.
- Listen to gentle music or a relaxation/hypnotic recordings to help you sleep.
- Invest in some sessions of Cognitive Hypnotherapy to help you to learn relaxation techniques and ways to control the thoughts that keep you awake. Many of my clients say that they go to sleep listening to my voice!
So, take action to start looking after your heart and look forward to a healthier future.
You can find Pat and other QCH practitioners using the therapist finder https://www.qchpa.com/therapist-finder