Kirsty Wark jokes about Scottish Independence position in 2014
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The 66-year-old Scottish journalist who made her name presenting BBC Two’s Newsnight, has spent a portion of her career speaking out about menopause symptoms, and how she feels more needs to be discussed on the topic. This culminated in a documentary a few years back, titled The Menopause and Me, where Kirsty featured her own personal accounts and was given expert advice on how to deal with menopause.
At the age of 47 Kirsty had a “medical menopause”. This was sparked by her hysterectomy, and her decision to come off of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to fears that it was linked to breast cancer.
“Every woman goes through the menopause but there is something about the word itself which has these negative connotations of ageing and atrophy,” Kirsty said.
“We are all living longer and the menopause is a feature of mid-life. It’s the start of a new chapter, so why the persistent taboo?
“I was on HRT for three years after my hysterectomy, but stopped suddenly because of this scare.
“I came off HRT and actually my symptoms have not really gone away in the past 10 years.
“Suddenly, I had no oestrogen and the disturbed sleep and night sweats started. By the time I started making the documentary, nothing much had changed for me and I just coped with it, as so many others do.”
As well as the physical battle that Kirsty endured for over a decade, it was the silence surrounding the menopause, and the fact that it wasn’t being largely discussed that was also bothering her.
She added: “It’s not so long ago that the hormonal changes that came with menopause were regarded as madness – the mad women in the attic.”
The majority of women experience menopause between the ages of 45 and 55 – with the average age being 51.
The average length of menopause is four years, but for some individuals, symptoms can last up to a whopping 12 years.
Dr Heather Currie, chairwoman of the British Menopause Society, told the BBC: “Sadly our ovaries are only designed to last a certain number of years.
“We produce egg cells on average up to the late 40s and early 50s. By the age of 51 women are stopping having periods. The reason periods stop is that women run out of egg cells.
“But the complicated thing is that we now live many years beyond that.
“When our ovaries are not working the key hormone that we stop producing is oestrogen.”
As individuals are living longer, this means that women have to deal with more severe symptoms. This can include osteoporosis and brittle and fragile bones.
Professor Mary Anne Lumsden, professor of medical education and gynaecology at the University of Glasgow, adds:
“Many of us are of a generation who have watched our mothers experience the effects of osteoporosis with multiple fractures and decreased mobility, and a loss of confidence.
“It’s an awful disease. It is extremely common, particularly in women.”
Further research has claimed that the use of HRT can decrease the likelihood of conditions such as osteoporosis, although not preventing bone fractures altogether.
Despite concerns about the safety of HRT, a data study in 2002 found that findings connecting HRT to an increased risk of breast cancer were overstated, with more positive reviews of the treatment emerging.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) new guidelines say that the risks of HRT are small and are usually outweighed by the benefits.
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