Dame Kelly Holmes has spoken out about the toll that the symptoms of perimenopause are having on her.
The double Olympic champion said: ‘I think perimenopause is killing me at the moment.
‘As much as I’m in denial, it definitely has had an effect on my body.’
Describing her symptoms as ‘body aches, pains, like constant pain throughout the body, feeling lethargic’, Dame Kelly added: ‘Last week, I started getting the sweats, which I’m not happy about, only at night.
‘I’m thinking “This isn’t good”. And it makes you more irritable. You feel like you’re not yourself.’
The former athlete, who retired from competing in 2005 after bringing home the Olympic gold in both the 800m and 1500m in Athens, said the perimenopause is particularly tough for her ‘as someone who is in tune with their body’.
Perimenopause is the transitional period before menopause. According to the NHS, it usually starts between the ages of 45 and 55, though it can begin much earlier.
It means your hormone levels have started to change, but its before your periods have stopped for a full 12 months – which is when you’ve officially hit menopause.
During this transitional time, your ovaries start to produce fewer eggs and your hormone levels change.
The symptoms can include headaches, dizziness, joint and muscle pain aches and pains, hot flushes (or ‘flashes’, as they’re sometimes known) night sweats, and difficulty sleeping.
A less frequently discussed impact of going through what’s also called ‘the change’ is on the mind.
‘The one thing with the hormonal changes – and men get it as well at certain ages – hormonal changes in the body can really affect your mental health,’ said Dame Kelly, who’s been open about her own mental health struggles in the past.
‘And I think women have to understand how interconnected your mental and physical health [are], because if one is not in tune, the other one will be affected, whatever way around that is.
‘When you feel your body’s a mess, that’s going to affect your head. But if you go into the gym or you go and do some exercises, at least you are doing it knowing that you’re benefiting yourself by doing it – even if those changes are still happening.’
Dame Kelly, a Nuffield Health ambassador, was speaking as the health charity published a major survey – the Healthier Nation Index – and is backing the organisation’s Find 5 campaign, which encourages us to carve out an extra five minutes a day for our health.
‘Doing some exercise is really important for people with perimenopause,’ she said.
‘You do as much as you can to combat it, so I go in the gym.’
Dame Kelly does a bit of running and three to four weights sessions a week, but a recent history of back issues means she’s careful not to push herself too hard.
‘Sometimes I feel so knackered, it’s easy just to not do it,’ she said.
‘I give myself more rest these days than I ever have, because I think that’s really important.
‘I take magnesium because I’m now sweating so I don’t want to get cramps. I’m thinking about upping my proteins.’
According to Nuffield Health’s poll of 8,000 UK adults, 60% of people said the cost-of-living crisis has had a negative impact on their physical health, and 59% said it affected their mental health over the last year.
The index also found that two in five (40%) said their sleep has been worse since the crisis ramped up.
Respondents said on average that they get a mere five hours and 54 minutes of sleep a night, down from just over six hours last year.
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