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Addressing The Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) Crisis Amid Global Shortages

Reports from Radio New Zealand have highlighted a national shortage of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) patches, a crisis echoing the 2019 HRT shortage in the UK. The anxiety and stress caused by these shortages are ironically exacerbating menopausal symptoms such as mood swings, hot flushes, and anxiety, the very issues HRT aims to alleviate.

The menopause transition significantly impacts many women, particularly in Western societies. Hormone replacement therapy is widely recognized as the most effective treatment for managing menopausal symptoms. Studies have shown its efficacy, although results may vary for women over 60 and different ethnicities. However, with the surge in HRT prescriptions leading to a global shortage, what alternatives are available?

Otago and Waikato Alumni, Dr. Wendy Sweet (PhD) has explored women's health and ageing and the impact of menopause on women’s exercise response, through her doctoral studies. This has led her towards better understanding of the impact of menopause hormonal changes and subsequent symptoms on the quality of women's lives.

This has drawn her to become a global expert in the area of alternative lifestyle strategies for menopause symptom relief, and she often presents on these at lifestyle medicine conferences. Her work is globally recognized for its contribution to improving the quality of life for midlife women.

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"I am not suggesting that women should stop using menopause HRT; this is a decision to make with their doctor. But evidence is mounting that lifestyle changes can also effectively reduce symptoms," says Dr. Sweet, “especially when we look at women’s health and ageing studies. Menopause is the ‘bookend to puberty’ so to me, exploring menopause symptoms through the lens of women’s longevity studies made so much sense.”

Drawing from her doctoral studies on women's health and ageing, Dr. Sweet has identified several lifestyle evidenced solutions that can benefit women during menopause. These strategies aim to reduce hot flushes, anxiety, insomnia and much more.

The Science Behind Menopausal Symptoms

Dr Sweet explains that numerous changes occur around the body when reproductive hormones decline. For example, the nervous system is ageing, and blood vessels are losing some of their elasticity. With both these examples, specific nutrients are scientifically proven to target enhanced nerve function and reduce vascular stiffness.

A stressful lifestyle can also exacerbate menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, insomnia, and anxiety. Increased stress leads to heightened nervous system activity, elevated blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and metabolism. This stress overload, especially when combined with poor sleep, increases inflammation, particularly in the gut and colon. Bloating and poor gut health is a common menopause symptom that women report in the menopause symptoms quiz, available on her website. Over 500,000 women worldwide have taken this quiz.

Going through ‘the change’ means focusing on ‘lifestyle change’ too

Dr Sweet states “Women mustn’t forget that going through ‘the change’ means focusing on ‘lifestyle change’ too. Many don’t understand that inflammatory changes are occuring in internal organs and tissues due to ageing. This is a newly recognised phenomenon known as ‘inflammaging’. Positioning menopause into women’s ageing and longevity science, was crucial to helping to better understand symptom management through lifestyle solutions.

She has dedicated her career to researching these changes, and helping women understand what they can do to take control of their symptoms. More than 15,000 women have completed her program worldwide, achieving symptom relief while setting themselves up for healthy aging.

Dr Sweet wants women to know that "As they enter their menopausal and post-menopausal years, there are powerful lifestyle changes they can make to reduce symptoms and set themselves up to age healthily. She has taken these lifestyle evidenced solutions and packaged them into easy to follow programs specifically tailored to the symptoms women are experiencing.

You can learn more about Dr Wendy Sweet’s Online Lifestyle-Change Programs for Peri- to Post-Menopause Symptom Reduction, Weight Loss and Fitness on her website MyMT™. You can also access her free Menopause Symptoms Quiz here as well.

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