The Menopause Manifesto | Jennifer Gunter

Summary of: The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism
By: Jennifer Gunter

Introduction

Are you confused about menopause and wondering what to anticipate during this transitional phase of life? The Menopause Manifesto, written by Jennifer Gunter, breaks societal silence about menopause, and helps readers understand the hormonal changes women face during this period. The book educates readers about the reasons for menopause, the variety of symptoms it brings, and its implications on overall health. It also offers solutions for managing uncomfortable symptoms, including menopausal hormone therapy, lifestyle adjustments, and debunking common myths. This engaging, well-organized summary sheds light on the complexities of menopause in a straightforward, user-friendly manner suitable for anyone between the ages of 20 and 40.

Breaking the Menopause Taboo

Menopause is a natural and universal process that has been stigmatized by society. The patriarchy has perpetuated the myth that menopause diminishes a woman’s worth. Menopause is not a disease, but a biological feature. It is essential to debunk the negative and misleading connotations associated with this term. The transition leading up to menopause can be challenging, with a drop in estrogen levels causing various symptoms, but women in countries with more positive expressions of menopause are found to experience fewer symptoms. It’s high time we talked about menopause and shed light on what to expect during this natural process.

The Evolutionary Purpose of Menopause

Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive capacity. Similar to puberty, which marks the beginning of fertility, menopause is a consequence of a gradual decline of follicles in the ovaries. It comes with physical changes such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and its onset and progression depend on various factors such as genetics and lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, menopause is not a mistake but an evolutionary adaptation that fosters cooperation and child-rearing in human societies. The grandmother hypothesis posits that menopause allows women to focus on supporting their offspring and grandchildren rather than having more children of their own. Grandmothers who live long and remain healthy can contribute to their families’ survival by providing resources and reducing the risks of infant mortality. By understanding the evolutionary purpose of menopause, we can appreciate its significance in our history and recognize the social and cultural roles of women as caregivers and nurturers.

Navigating Menopause: Health Risks and Solutions

If you’re over 45, chances are you’ve experienced premenopausal hot flashes. As estrogen levels drop during menopause, the inner thermostat of our brain is disrupted leading to several physical symptoms. While hot flashes, mood swings, and insomnia are temporary, menopausal women must also take into account the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. Hormonal changes mean that more fat is stored as visceral fat, which is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Osteoporosis is also a significant risk as bone loss accelerates during menopause. The book suggests that women over the age of 65 should have their bone density screened regularly, and those with a high genetic risk for osteoporosis should start even earlier. Regular screening for blood pressure, cholesterol, and bone density is hence essential. The best way to offset these risks is with a healthy lifestyle which includes exercise, healthy eating, and avoiding smoking. Menopausal hormone therapy is another option.

Menopausal Hormone Therapy Essential Facts

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) is a type of pharmaceutical hormone supplementation that primarily concerns estrogen and progesterone. Its goal is to alleviate the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, insomnia, and hormonal depression. However, MHT had a rocky start, especially in the context of marketing and safety. The first formulation of estrogen pill Premarin failed to include enough progesterone, leading to an increase in endometrial cancers. A 2002 study by the Women’s Health Initiative linked MHT to a higher risk of breast cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and pulmonary embolism, causing a scandal that led to a dramatic shift in the use of MHT.

However, in 2007, a review of the same data showed that MHT has a “window of safety” and can be useful for women who start taking it before the age of 60. While there is a slightly increased risk of stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer, these risks can be managed by starting with the lowest effective dose and using transdermal applications rather than oral medications for estrogen. Women should also opt for pharmaceutical-grade hormones over “compounded” or “natural” products, which are largely untested and unregulated.

In summary, MHT can be a powerful tool to manage menopause symptoms, but it’s essential to understand the dos and don’ts to ensure safety and effectiveness. Being patient and managing expectations is also critical, as it can take up to six months for MHT to take full effect.

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