It is estimated that there are currently 10 million women in the UK and 20 million women in the US going through the menopause. At some point all of the women in the world are biologically programmed to go through this change.
Hot flushes are just one of the problems experienced by women during menopause. These are estimated to effect between 60-80% of women. On average menopause has been shown to last for around 7.5 years (for some, hot flushes can continue for the rest of their lives). It is not uncommon for some women to experience them in excess of 20 times a day. Add to that a similar level of disruption due to night sweats resulting in very disturbed sleep, and it’s a condition that can have a real impact on an individual’s quality of life and their ability to function normally.
Hot flushes usually come on exceedingly fast with no warning and ramp up in intensity very quickly. One of the main concerns raised by women is their lack of ability to do anything about managing them. Depending on the situation, women describe the feelings that accompany them as being ones of helplessness and panic which at times can be overwhelming.
For many, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been a saviour, offering a reliable way of limiting, and in many cases preventing, hot flushes. However, not all women wish to take up HRT.
Promising on-going research points to links between the slow-down in oestrogen experienced at menopause and its interactions with neurokinin B(NKB) signalling in the brain implicated in menopausal thermoregulatory disruption. This has resulted in neurokinin 3 receptor (NK3R) antagonist drugs (an alternative to oestrogen) being developed and trialled.
There is however a very large group of women who cannot or will not take drugs. For them there are very few options available to help manage hot flushes.
There is therefore an urgent need for a non-drug based solution that can help women simply and discretely manage and alleviate hot flush symptoms.
Partnership to provide a solution
At Cambridge Consultants, we are currently carrying out our own research in this area and have recently started collaborating with the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) at Newcastle University with support from the University's Open Lab – creating a partnership of world leading scientists and engineers to solve this challenge.
This month we will be jointly holding a series of Workshops to gain insight into women’s experiences of hot flushes and to gather user feedback on our initial product ideas which aim to provide a further choice to help manage symptoms.
This is the first joint programme of work between NICA and Cambridge Consultants with the aim of investigating how technology can help promote Lifelong Health.
If you might be interested in taking part in a future workshop please email Senior Innovation Associate at the National Innovation Centre for Ageing Dr Meera Vijayaraghavan
Opinion piece thanks to Nicola Millar of Cambridge Consultants
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