Wednesday, 16 January 2013
The best half of your life
The menopause, far from being a negative, can signal a regeneration of the self, says Jill Shaw Ruddock.
By Carolyn HartAged 48, and baffled by a series of symptoms that included depression and heart palpitations, bestselling author Jill Shaw Ruddock went to her doctor. 'When was your last period?' he asked. A series of blood tests later, he pronounced, 'Well... you're not peri-menopausal'.
'You mean I'm pregnant!' was Ruddock's response. 'Well, no,' said the doctor, 'you're a fully blown menopausal woman...'
'Unbeknown to me,' says Ruddock now, 'I had gone through the menopause without knowing it was happening...'
Lucky for some, you might well be thinking as you battle with hot flushes, sleepless nights and a variety of associated complaints. But for Ruddock, this rather extraordinary news was the catalyst that persuaded her to start a new chapter in her life.
'I did some research into the subject,' she says, 'and I decided I wanted to write a book about the menopause that would open up this hidden subject. Women never talk about the menopause, even though every woman who gets old goes through it.' Her research threw up some interesting statistics.
'During menopause,' Ruddock tells me, 'women's hormonal balance completely changes. They lose 100 per cent of their progesterone, 99.92 per cent of their oestrogen, the nurturing hormone, and only 80 per cent of their testosterone. And what does that mean?' she asks in a keep-up-at-the back tone of voice. 'You work it out...'
What it means formed the basis of Ruddock's thesis. 'Hormones determine how we act,' she explains. 'In the first half of a woman's life, our oestrogen is high and, as a result, we are trying to please everyone; in the second half we've lost the oestrogen and progesterone and are left with a relatively high amount of testosterone – we begin to behave more like men.
'We define ourselves outside the home, the way you look at the world changes, and so do your goals. You're unhampered by the need to nurture. It can be very exciting,' she adds.
'It means that this really is the second half of your life. If you're healthy at 50, you may live to the age of 96 – that gives you many years in which to rediscover the person you once were before childbirth intervened.
'Women shouldn't be viewing menopause as a negative – we should see it as a positive... it's not a death, but a possible regeneration of the self – a transformation in the brain.'
Once she had figured all this out, Ruddock says, 'I knew I could write the book.' She came up with a five-a-day plan that would see women into a happy and healthy old age.
Jill's five-a-day plan
- Have a passion for gardening/ cooking/making jewellery, etc)
- Find a purpose – become involved in the larger community
- Take exercise – good for the brain synapses
- Eat well (nutrition)
- Stay connected to family and friends
She is bouncing with glossy energy, impeccably well dressed, and determined to share the news of her latest project. 'I'm launching a Centre for The Second Half,' she says, 'which will put the five-a-day plan into practice. It will give people, men or women over 50, a place to come to.
'You can drop in, join a class, meet new people. The only conditions are that you're over 50 and you sign up for classes (those on offer, part of the Find A Passion programme, will include languages, singing, gardening, bridge, a book club, creative writing, computer courses and exercise classes including Pilates, yoga, line dancing and t'ai chi). Her first centre opens on 29 October, and there's a preview day on Silver Sunday, 7 October, hosted by Ruddock, to give interested oldies a chance to look around. 'I want this to be a dynamic social club,' she says. 'I want people to come to these centres and learn the skills necessary to live happily and successfully in the 21st century. People will be able to make new friends and thus end the destructive scourge of isolation. It's true we have to age,' she adds, 'but we can at least control how we grow old...'
The Second Half Centre will open on 29 October in the NHS St Charles Centre for Health and Wellbeing, London W10. Silver Sunday at the Centre is on 7 October. If you would like to be involved by contributing your time, joining or making a donation, email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Second Half Of Your Life by Jill Shaw Ruddock is published by Vermilion, priced £12.99 (all proceeds go to The Second Half Foundation).
Daily tip from the lady archive
“PEOPLE cannot help being influenced by their surroundings and their environment; therefore how all important it is that both of these should be healthy and cheery, for health and happiness both go hand-in-hand.”The Lady. The Blessing of Old Health, 18th November 1920
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