That’s post-menopause zeal!

The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE -

AT 56, Katie Field has the kind of en­ergy peo­ple ex­pect in a woman half her age. The mother of two rises at 5am to get through her to-do list – which in­cludes a 3.2km run be­fore work, a long com­mute to London from her home in East Sus­sex, then a busy 10-hour day work­ing as an as­sis­tant di­rec­tor in the civil ser­vice.

After that, Katie in­dulges her new hobby: mak­ing peo­ple laugh as a come­di­enne – a life­long dream she fi­nally had the con­fi­dence to try four years ago.

Most nights, she won’t slip into bed be­fore mid­night, yet she still feels re­freshed the next morn­ing de­spite her dawn start. But it’s not a new diet or ex­er­cise regime that has given Katie this lease of life, but menopause.

“Be­fore menopause, I needed eight hours’ sleep,” says Katie. “Now I can get by on just five or six. And I feel more con­fi­dent and vi­brant.”

De­fined as be­gin­ning at the one-year an­niver­sary of your last pe­riod, post-menopause life is of­ten seen as be­ing a time of weight gain, dry skin, a loss of libido and a lack of en­ergy.

Yet many women are now re­port­ing the con­verse is true – and menopause can mark a re­newed sense of vi­tal­ity, en­ergy and de­sire.

There’s even a name for the phe­nom­e­non: post-menopause zeal or PMZ, coined by an­thro­pol­o­gist Mar­garet Mead.

Now, an in­creas­ing num­ber of ex­perts and doc­tors are recog­nis­ing menopause is not al­ways the neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence it is of­ten por­trayed as – and that for many women, it can spell a hugely pos­i­tive change.

Sur­veys find many women bloom in their post-menopausal years and feel hap­pier.

Asur­vey of more than 1 000 women con­ducted ear­lier this year found almost a fifth of women felt fit­ter and sex­ier in their fifties than they did in their twen­ties, and 15 per­cent had more en­ergy.

As Hugh Byrne, con­sul­tant gy­nae­col­o­gist at St George’s Hos­pi­tal in South London, says, the rea­sons for this are partly phys­i­cal, partly psy­cho­log­i­cal.

“There’s an idea that women slow up after menopause, but there’s no real rea­son this should be so,” he says.

Menopause marks when a woman stops pro­duc­ing an egg monthly. In the run-up to this, dur­ing the stage called the per­i­menopause, the num­ber of eggs in the ovaries starts to drop steeply.

“It’s the eggs that pro­duce the hor­mone oe­stro­gen, so lev­els of this start to drop too while lev­els of the hor­mone pro­ges­terone, pro­duced in re­sponse to the re­lease of an egg, also fall,” says Byrne.

New en­ergy. Higher libido. The con­fi­dence to follow your dreams. How menopause can be the best thing that has ever hap­pened to you

As th­ese hor­mones start to drop, they trig­ger the typ­i­cal menopause symp­toms such as ir­reg­u­lar pe­ri­ods, hot flushes, night sweats, sleep­ing prob­lems and ir­ri­tabil­ity.

Th­ese symp­toms can start two or more years be­fore ac­tual menopause, which most women ex­pe­ri­ence at the age of 51, and for some women will con­tinue for some years beyond.

How­ever, while oe­stro­gen and pro­ges­terone lev­els tum­ble, lev­els of testos­terone – the male hor­mone, found to a lesser ex­tent in women – re­main steady.

“From a hor­monal point of view, it’s only low lev­els of testos­terone that are as­so­ci­ated with low en­ergy,” says Byrne.

“After menopause, women are freed up from hav­ing pe­ri­ods, and that is a big re­lief for a lot of women – and not bleed­ing ev­ery month and los­ing iron may give them more en­ergy,” he says.

“Oth­ers may find that as they don’t have to worry about con­tra­cep­tion any more, so their de­sire in­creases.”

This new-found boost has cer­tainly been the case for Katie, from Bex­hill-on-Sea, who is mar­ried to Tony, 75 – and is de­lighted to have re­claimed her body from the emo­tional ebb and flow of her monthly cy­cle.

“Be­fore menopause, I used to have sev­eral days a month when I felt grumpy and dis­sat­is­fied. Even an­tic­i­pat­ing them would cast a pall on the rest of the month.

“When I was 50, and the symp­toms of menopause started, I found them even harder to deal with at first.

“I was sleep­ing in the spare room with the win­dow open in the mid­dle of win­ter be­cause my hot flushes were so in­tense.

“My pe­ri­ods also got very heavy – my GP said it was my body try­ing to have its last hur­rah – which made me feel ex­hausted and very low.”

How­ever, when her menopausal symp­toms ended four years ago, things took a turn for the bet­ter.

“I felt more re­freshed straight away, and things have got pro­gres­sively bet­ter since then.

“Now I love get­ting up and go­ing for a run early – whereas pre­vi­ously I was not a run­ner at all as I had no en­ergy.

“I feel a lot less stressed, too, as I don’t have hor­monal fluc­tu­a­tions go­ing on.

“Not hav­ing to worry about con­tra­cep­tion is lib­er­at­ing too.”

In 2011, she sud­denly felt the time was right to give her dream of be­ing a stand-up a go.

“Tak­ing up com­edy was, for me, a way of cel­e­brat­ing my new-found free­dom. My chil­dren had left home and I felt free of the hor­monal bag­gage that had been with me since pu­berty.”

Char­ity founder and au­thor Jill Shaw Rud­dock, 59, has her own the­ory on her new zest for life after she went through menopause at 48.

“In the run-up, I was un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally de­pressed. I had in­som­nia and a dark out­look but no idea it was be­cause I was pre­menopausal,” she says.

She went to her doc­tor, who gave her a blood test and found her oe­stro­gen and pro­ges­terone lev­els had sunk, a sign she was menopausal.

Once she’d been through menopause, she felt ready to start again.

“I felt this new pur­pose,” says Jill, who lives in Not­ting Hill Gate, West London, and is mar­ried to Sir Paul Rud­dock, chair­man of the Vic­to­ria & Al­bert Mu­seum.

“I feel as if I’m ready to take on new chal­lenges and have a new pas­sion for what I do.”

She de­cided to write a book on mid­dle age, and while re­search­ing the bi­ol­ogy of menopause stum­bled across an in­trigu­ing the­ory gath­er­ing trac­tion in the US.

“After menopause, your oe­stro­gen lev­els drop to almost zero and you lose 100 per­cent of your pro­ges­terone – so what you are left with is testos­terone,” she says.

“Sud­denly women be­come testos­terone-dom­i­nant and that’s why they feel bet­ter – stronger and more con­fi­dent. Their brain al­lows them to go and find new pas­sions and pur­pose.”

Ac­cord­ing to psy­chol­o­gist Dr Shar­ron Hinch­liff, a se­nior lec­turer at the Univer­sity of Sh­effield, the causes of PMZ are more com­plex than hor­mones – and in­ter­wo­ven with the way so­ci­ety treats older women.

“Some peo­ple think women go through menopause and be­come sex­u­ally dead,” she says. “It’s what our moth­ers and grand­moth­ers were led to be­lieve – part of the old at­ti­tude that post-menopausal women should just dis­ap­pear.

“But feel­ing freed from the re­pro­duc­tive cy­cle can be a pos­i­tive. Midlife is now a time when many women start to look at them­selves dif­fer­ently. They’re clear about their val­ues, they know what they want, and they feel they can go and get it.

“A lot of menopausal women suf­fer prob­lems sleep­ing or feel ir­ri­ta­ble, but once th­ese symp­toms have passed, they may feel bet­ter, too. Es­pe­cially as re­search shows many women feel in­creased sex­ual ap­petite after the menopause and a new zeal for life.”

The Sec­ond Half of Your Life by Jill Shaw Rud­dock is pub­lished by Ver­mil­ion. – Daily Mail

Many women feel en­er­gised after menopause, ex­cited to try new things, more con­fi­dent and gen­er­ally hap­pier.

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