Heidi Houston is the executive producer of Hot Flash Havoc, an award-winning documentary about menopause in America.
With her new documentary about menopause, Hot Flash Havoc, Heidi Houston wants to change the way this country looks at the ‘change of life.’
Posted on October 31, 2010
Six years ago, Heidi Houston was so desperate to get an appointment with a Dr. Elizabeth Vliet, a prominent menopause doctor, that she agreed to a very unique form of payment. Houston, a prominent real estate investor in Colorado, made Vliet a documentary. Inspired by her own struggle to find menopause treatment, Houston produced Hot Flash Havoc, a provocative and revealing film featuring interviews with real women and experts across the country. It premieres this November.
Houston spoke to us about her own menopause experience and reveals 5 facts that may surprise you.
FOF: First, tell me about your own menopause experience. Was it that awful?
Houston: I had major mood swings. I mean, rageful moments when I would actually fire people. I had joint pain every morning to the point where I could barely move; hot flashes every 20 minutes; major weight gain. My quality of life stunk—my kids hated me. Probably everybody did at that point.
I went from doctor to doctor and took everything from herbs to prescriptions, but no two ever gave me the same information, and half the time they contradicted each other! When I saw Dr. Vliet speak about menopause and hormones, everything made sense. I thought, “That’s my doctor!”
FOF: Did she help you?
Houston: She did a series of tests, because she wanted to confirm that there wasn’t anything else wrong with me, but she said, ‘I can almost guarantee you this is all menopausal symptoms from hormone withdrawal.’ She treated me with hormone replacement, and in the first 24 hours my hot flashes went away. Within 72 hours I felt like the woman I’d been 10 years before. Within 2 weeks my joint pain was completely gone and my mood swings stopped.
FOF: So is this movie advocating hormone use?
Houston: It’s not about ‘hormones good or hormones bad’—it’s about ‘know the true facts about what happens to our bodies after our reproductive years’--from 33 onward. What do we need to know so we can be vital, vertical, alert and sexual into our 80s? Women should walk away saying, ‘I now know enough to talk to my doctor and get my questions answered.’
FOF: Can you give us some surprising facts that women will learn from your movie?
Houston: Of course…
You may be treating your menopause with drugs and not even know it.
About 20-25% of women won’t have any outward symptoms of menopause—hot flashes, etc.--but inside the body, they are affected. Without estrogen, you may find that you’re developing osteoporosis, heart palpitations or high cholesterol. If that happens, your doctor may put you on Boniva or a statin. Women need to look at their overall body and say, ‘What’s my best option, so I don’t get put on 10 medications with 50 different side effects.’ We have to start getting our doctors to treat our bodies as a whole, and not treat each individual symptom.
We’re the first generation to live long enough for menopause to become a real issue.
Menopause is a not a disease, it’s a natural part of life. But here’s how things have changed: During the dark ages, a woman’s life expectancy was 35. A lot of women died in childbirth and never reached menopausal age. If they did, they were often drowned or hung for being witches. Over 400,000 women met this fate in the dark ages.
In the 1700s, we were still only living on average into our 40s. In the 1800s, the upper middle class started to live into older age because they had better healthcare, but it wasn’t until their 1960s and that women started regularly living into their 60s. Our average age is now 83 years old and many of us will live to be 100. This is the largest population ever of aging people--60% of America.
When our hormones quit producing, it causes a lot of things in our bodies to crumble. That was all well and good when our average age was 60 to 65, because we’d die before we really had to worry about osteoporosis or had heart disease. That’s why our generation really has to re-examine the way we approach menopause.
Most ob/gyns have no more than 1 to 2 hours of schooling on menopause during their training.
Many doctors are simply uncomfortable talking about sex and aging because they don’t know anything about it. There are only 1000 certified menopause specialists in this country for a population of 105 million women. I hope this movie will make doctors go get certified.
We’re the only free country in the world that doesn’t have women’s testosterone.
Testosterone is different in a woman’s body than a man’s body. In Europe, where they started giving women hormones thirty years before we did, they’ve had ‘women’s testosterone’ for twenty years. Here we can only get men’s testosterone, because the FDA hasn’t approved the women’s version. And yet, Viagra was passed in 6 months.
Menopause is not the end of great sex.
When a woman no longer has estrogen, her vagina becomes dry and hard and shrinks and it’s no fun to have sex—it hurts. Many women think, ‘I guess it’s just that time of life and I have to put up with it.’ It’s not true! We are sexual creatures and there are things that fix it. That’s where you really see the difference between Europeans and us. They see their women as sexual into their 80s and 90s and they always have.