Most of us know that an active lifestyle and a balanced diet can work wonders as we age - but those things can also be a lot harder than we’d like to live by.
If you’re in need of a bit of inspiration then watch The Latte Lounge's chat with women’s fitness expert Amanda Thebe.
Amanda Thebe is a force of nature for women who are experiencing, in her words, ‘menopause hell’, and want to start feeling healthy and fit in their 40s and beyond. She’s got nearly 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry, and is a highly regarded expert on women’s fitness and health. Amanda also runs her own podcast ‘fit n chips chats’. Her book, 'Menopocalypse' is one of our chosen recommended reads on perimenopause and menopause.
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Back in 2019 I also interviewed Amanda about her own menopause journey and how menopause treatment differs around the world. Read on for what she had to say:
Living in 3 different countries, has meant that I have experienced three different healthcare systems, and let me tell you they all vary so much. We have the NHS in the UK with free healthcare for all. In the USA you need to have private health insurance. This is either provided by your employer or self-funded. If insurance isn’t financially viable, the US government does fund two kinds of health plans: Medicare and Medicaid (remember Obamacare?).
In Canada you see a hybrid of both systems, the “Canadian healthcare basically works like Medicare, but for everyone. Medical care is free, and it covers almost everything other than prescription drugs, glasses, and dental care. (Most people have supplementary insurance to cover those things).” Suffice to say, they all systems have their good, bad and ugly traits.
During my time living in Toronto I became unwell. It was 2013 and I was 43 years old. I started experiencing bouts of severe vertigo and nausea. Times where I couldn’t get out of bed, and had to crawl along the floor so that I wouldn’t fall over. I had visual problems and loss of feeling in the left side of my face and arm. For the next 2 years, I underwent every test known to man. MRI’s, CT scans, x-rays, induced balance testing sight and hearing tests to name a few. All came back as inconclusive. I then ultimately feel into a deep depression.
I was not well, nobody knew what was wrong with me, it was a very isolating time. Then on a routine visit to my gynaecologist, he asked me how I was doing, and then the water-works started. I broke down in despair and told him I thought I was going crazy. When he told me that the symptoms I had been experiencing were ocular migraines, which were common to perimenopause, a huge sense of relief washed over me. It all made sense and it was the start of me regaining my life back.
I am sure my story is similar to yours. I was misdiagnosed. I was misunderstood. I was failed by the system. At no stage did any of my doctors consider that I was in perimenopause. Instead they pushed me full of pills and more tests, leaving me exhausted and frustrated.
When I moved to Houston, Texas I decided that I needed to go on HRT. I went to my GP with the request, but to my dismay he refused me HRT, telling me that it would put me at risk for breast cancer. Unfortunately for him, I had thoroughly researched the topic ( to the extent that I wrote a soon-to-be-published book about menopause) and insisted that he give me a prescription. HRT should be the first line therapy for menopause, but according to Dr Avrum Bluming, many GP’s just don’t know this. “Only 20% of gynecologists will even study menopause, and in general practice this number is less.” We are literally the forgotten crowd.
I pushed for my HRT and he prescribed me Premarin. This is a synthetic hormone derived from pregnant mares, I did not want this, I wanted FDA approved bio-identical hormones (called body-identical in the UK), but I was informed that my insurance would not cover the cost of those. Now I might add that I have really good health insurance, I am talking from place of privilege and yet I was being denied. I pushed again until I got a prescription for bioidentical estrogen, but he refused to prescribe me progesterone, stating it was unnecessary.
By now I was incredulous, this is malpractice at its finest. If you are a woman in perimenopause and you have your uterus, you must be given a progesterone to accompany your estrogen - plain simple facts. In the end I left the surgery, ran over to the nearest women’s clinic in tears, where I saw a gynecologist who prescribed me the correct HRT.
This was not the first time she had seen this happen. In fact it was more common than not. Unfortunately, ill-informed GP’s are scaring women away from a treatment that they need. Lots of women here in the USA don’t even have the correct insurance to pay for HRT, and are denied the correct treatment from the insurance companies. Out of frustration and sometimes self-diagnosis, there has been an upturn in the number of women buying their hormones online. You can in fact buy hormones from Amazon!
I totally get it, I see and hear the desperation from women, who simply are not being supported by the medical community. But the answer isn’t to self-prescribe, the answer to educate and advocate. I got what I wanted because I was informed and determined, but not every woman feels like this. GPs need to get with the times and offer help, not fill us with antidepressants to numb the pain. Women have to demand to see a specialist if their GP will not help them, both the British Menopause Society and the North American Society, offer a list of menopause specialists in your area.
In addition to this, we see the added problem of racial disparity in the health care of African-American women in the US, receiving a lower standard of healthcare. African-American women are more likely to struggle with the vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes than white or Asian women, but are not getting the correct level of service or treatment.
There is much work to be done on both side of the Atlantic. We all have a shared voice and we all can light small fires. Let’s do this together and get menopause education out to women, GP’s and educators.
About Amanda: Amanda Thebe is a force of nature for women who are experiencing menopause hell and want to start feeling healthy and fit in their 40s and beyond. Through her very frank articles, hilarious social media posts and inspirational and entertaining talks, she’s here to help you find the tools to have more energy and zest for life, while making you laugh like a 20 year old throughout the process. Her workouts and fitness tips have been featured in Breaking Muscle, Girls Gone Strong, and Ultimate Sandbag Training. Her adoring fans and clients have called her a ‘resilient bitch’ and ‘an unstoppable inspiration’, with one woman naming her “the over 40 guru to watch in 2019.” And when she’s not fitnessing, you can find her socializing with her family and friends and the occasional Netflix binge session with the hubby. For more info on Amanda, head over to her website Fit & Chips. Social media Instagram: www.instagram.com/amanda.thebe Facebook: www.facebook.com/fitnchips Menopause community: www.facebook.com/groups/menopausingsohard
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