Thinking ahead sets you up for success during menopause
Updated: Jul 26, 2022
Dr. Isis Amer-Wåhlin, Olivia’s Chief Medical Advisor, runs a cutting-edge private health clinic in Stockholm that helps you optimise your health now to prevent future illness. Olivia met with her to talk about why preventive healthcare is crucial to menopause.
–Improve your whole body and you improve your general wellbeing. This will support your hormone production during menopause, she says.
While working in the traditional healthcare system in Sweden, gynaecologist, women’s hormonal health specialist and Olivia’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Isis Amer-Wåhlin worked towards creating a more value-based healthcare system. This is when quality of care is prioritised over the quantity of patients seen. Value-based healthcare was developed so patients could get more time and quality support for their health issues. After nearly two decades working in leadership positions in hospitals across Sweden, Isis grew tired of working against the grain. The system was hard to change.
The main challenge according to Isis, who since 2019 runs and owns a private clinic called 2Heal Medical, is that specialist doctors treat one organ at a time. They rarely work together with other specialists to get new insights into the patient’s overall health. When there is no time or resources to look at the whole health picture, she says, there’s a risk that nuanced and unexpected root causes of an illness remain unaddressed until the situation is critical.
– People with chronic illnesses often don’t get the support that leads to their long-term improvement because they are just getting their symptoms alleviated. This is scratching the surface, she says.
Preventive healthcare and collaboration between fields and expertise
She founded 2Heal Medical to help people understand their health situation by finding out how each patient’s body is functioning down to a cell level. Many factors, such as a person’s genes, environment and lifestyle are analysed. An overall picture is then formed which helps address particular needs. Maybe a certain vitamin deficiency is found that is contributing to low moods. This approach is called functional medicine, which Isis studied in the States.
At Isis’ clinic a range of experts with mixed backgrounds within nutrition, health, medicine and psychology all work together to optimise people’s health even if there are no direct signs of illness. The goal is to create a safety net now to protect the body when it gets more vulnerable in the future. This is called preventive medicine.
Protecting the future you when hormone levels change during menopause
The preventive approach to health is particularly relevant for women approaching menopause, says Isis. During menopause your levels of estrogen and progesterone naturally decline. Besides developing and maintaining the female reproductive system, estrogen also protects against heart and bone disease and also contributes to cognitive health. So when estrogen declines, the risk for these diseases go up. Another change that happens during menopause is that stress sensitivity rises.
– Each time you pass through a stressful period your body releases stress hormones that use resources from the reproductive system. During menopause these levels are low, so it puts a bigger strain on your body, says Isis.
This means that you need the right lifestyle routines in place to support your hormone production during menopause. Knowing your body, your family history and health risks is key, Isis says, because then you can take steps already today that can give your body the protection it needs when your body changes and health risks increase.
Menopause healthcare challenges
With menopause, the main issue she sees within healthcare is a lack of knowledge. Doctors often fail to identify certain symptoms as a part of a woman’s menopause and then prescribe the wrong medications that often worsen the situation, she says.
– It’s important to recognise when symptoms are linked to menopause. When they are difficult to pinpoint it leads to confusion and uncertainty. It’s easier to understand what you are going through if someone explains this is a natural phase. That’s how you can get empowered to change your approach, Isis says.
Why is Olivia important in bridging the menopause knowledge gap?
– Olivia helps menopausal women understand and connect to the phase they are in and the lifestyle changes they can make independently. Olivia can even make the medical profession more aware and knowledgeable about what goes on during menopause, she says.
Lifestyle changes to support your health during menopause
A part of closing the knowledge gap about menopause is about bringing awareness to the right lifestyle changes that can be made before, during and after menopause. Raising more awareness about menopause and its effects on health can help women prepare for it and take it seriously even earlier, such as when you’re planning your first pregnancy, Isis says.
During pre-menopause and perimenopause you can improve your situation a lot by improving your lifestyle, she says. This includes looking at your nutrition, the way you sleep, the quality of your relationships and how much you move.
–If you improve your whole body and work on all these parts you’re going to improve your general wellbeing, Isis says.
She also recognises that life can be complicated, and sometimes it can be practically challenging to make changes. Your health can take a hit from unforeseen events or challenges. It’s better to start where you are than to not do anything at all, she says.
– If you haven’t addressed certain aspects of your health before, now is the time. To me menopause is not just the end of fertility but a phase that brings many opportunities for positive change and reflection if you deal with it in a good way, Isis says.
Name: Isis Amer-Wåhlin
Lives in: Stockholm, Sweden
Family: Husband and 3 kids
Olivia’s Chief Medical Advisor
MD, PhD at the Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics at Karolinska Institute, Sweden.
Senior consultant in Women’s Health, with an international background as a clinical expert.
MSc in System safety and the human factor from Lund School of Engineering.
Long background as a Medical Advisor at the Health Administration of the Stockholm Region
Previous director of the Stockholm County Council Innovation Board
Has worked in the Life-Science industry with medical marketing, market access and e-health.
Senior researcher in digital health care at RISE, Research Institute of Sweden
Founder of 2Heal Medical
Isis’ 5 Tips for a Healthy Life during Menopause
You may have heard them before, but these are tried and tested and can significantly improve your wellbeing when addressed and optimised. Here are the essential lifestyle factors that you can work on to thrive during menopause.
“If you optimise these five things you’re going to be much better off. They’re basic human things. We are a part of a much bigger system, so we need to address all those aspects”
Nutrition - "Food is medicine. Nutrition impacts your health in a decisive way - you can change your whole genetic expression through changing your nutrition. Removing things that cause problems and adding things that work. It needs to be tailored to you. Consider the origin of the food. This affects the nutrition levels. What kind of nutrition is in the food? Where were the vegetables grown? What was the situation for the cows and the lambs? ”
A good night’s sleep “Sleep is needed for the body and brain to recover and process impressions. During sleep, the body unwinds, blood pressure drops, heart rate and body temperature drop, respiration decreases and muscles relax. In parts of the brain, activity decreases. At the same time, memories are stored and new knowledge and new impressions are processed. When you sleep, the body's immune system is activated and important hormones are formed. At the same time, the production of stress hormones decreases. Getting enough sleep can reduce the risk of diseases such as high blood fats, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression and fatigue syndrome."
Exercising - “Physical exercise, extremely important, and often has a better effect than medication.” Read about the benefits of strength training here.
Healthy relationships - “Relationships are crucial to your health, problematic relationships put a strain on your body. Your relationship to yourself is also really important so it might be a good idea to work on addressing old traumas if they come up with a psychologist.”
Managing stress well - “It’s not always possible to remove stress, but there are ways to minimise the effects of stress on your body” Olivia has a stress relief program that helps you manage your stress.”