Gailene Wright

TBS Boomers: Women’s Health and the danger of taking things at Facebook value

health

Approx Reading Time-11In the age of information, it is hard to decipher which women’s health advice is actually true. However, not passing on advice you know to be false is the best medicine.

 

 

 

 

This article is produced in partnership with Besins Healthcare as an educational service.

 

Women’s health used to be at the mercy of old wives’ tales but now it seems they’ve been replaced by social media. Every day when I log on to Facebook I’m faced with the challenge of determining what is myth and what has merit. As a woman at the stage in life when age-related health concerns are a major challenge, not only to me but also to those close to me, it is becoming alarming how much information and misinformation I am faced with daily.

In an online environment where six out of ten people share links without first checking their merit it’s possible for fallacious ideas to spread rapidly, and when it comes to women’s health, that can be downright dangerous. Before I reached the point of seeing a doctor about menopause my knowledge of it was scant. Since then I have come to realise that this state of mind was infinitely preferable to being misled by the flood of misinformation on the internet from people who haven’t got the slightest idea what they are talking about.

I recall that in the early 2000s, Hormone Replacement Therapy was generally accepted by the medical profession and women as a safe and effective way of relieving the symptoms of menopause. Then in 2002, data from the Women’s Health Initiative study suddenly changed all that. It pointed to a link between HRT and breast cancer and also cardiovascular disease. As a result, the incidence of HRT treatments reduced dramatically even for women suffering severe menopausal symptoms. However, as with all research, it requires the ability to not be stuck on a particular moment in time but rather to look at the research as it evolves.

I wonder why this aspect of women’s health causes so much fear and confusion. Bloggers and wellness advocates are prone to use social media to peddle theories about remedies and research that have no clinical merit, but which can be attractive to women who have little time for research and are desperate for answers.

Since then, further research has produced clear evidence that HRT is a safe and effective remedy for most women. Furthermore, new treatments using pharmaceutical grade hormones similar to those produced naturally in a woman’s body can now be prescribed by doctors.

My personal story is of a doctor putting me on an HRT course that didn’t work. I thought my head was going to burn off, and the night sweats still persisted. After further consultation my doctor prescribed a different type of treatment, a hormone replacement gel which did the trick. Had I been influenced instead by the advice from Dr Google and the Facebook Warriors, I would never have opted for the second successful course of treatment. Some women I know still have refused to undergo HRT because it designates them as old and that deeply saddens me.

The reality is that some types of treatment suit some women better than others and there is simply no one answer that suits all when it comes to treating the symptoms of menopause. The best advice I can give is to trust the medical professionals who have dedicated their careers to improving women’s health and relieving symptoms.

I often wonder why this aspect of women’s health causes so much fear and confusion. Unfortunately bloggers and wellness advocates are prone to use social media to peddle theories about remedies and research that have no clinical merit, but which can be attractive to women who have little time for research and are desperate for answers.

Doctors will be the first to confirm that every course of treatment has to be tailor-made to individual needs. If your first course of treatment doesn’t work, do what I did and try again until you find the one right for you.

We live in an age where it is all too easy to accept the advice readily available at our fingertips rather than taking the trouble to seek expert advice. Furthermore, the advice at our fingertips is just a click away from our Facebook friends. It is one thing to pass on responsible information about HRT giving both sides of the argument but quite another to pass on posts like “Sage cured my mother”. It really scares me that most complementary medicine manufacturers are not regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration the same way pharmaceutical manufacturers are. There is little to prevent them making questionable claims about their products’ efficacy.

Doctors are unquestionably the best source of advice about treatment of menopause symptoms. They will be the first to confirm that every course of treatment has to be tailor-made to individual needs. If your first course of treatment doesn’t work, do what I did and try again until you find the one right for you.

If I had just accepted my menopausal symptoms and carried on with life (pretending I was still 35 and ignoring the reality of my age) I wouldn’t still be out there today enjoying walking, swimming, cycling and life in general. And if you do happen to read a post about a woman who is no longer menopausal thanks to eating carrots, do your friends a favour and don’t pass it on, especially through social media.

 

The most reliable sources of online information are medical groups like
The Australasian Menopause Society
and Jean Hailes.

 

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