Dr. Mache Seibel helps women in and around menopause figure it out so they don’t have to tough it out. Dr. Seibel is one of America’s leading voices on women’s wellness and menopause. He is a highly sought-after health communicator and keynote speaker, who combines health information with original music, humor and stories that emotionally capture the audience and holds their attention, while the medicine goes down.
Interview with Mache Seibel
Mari Ryan: Welcome the Workplace Wellbeing Essentials Series. I’m Mari Ryan. I’m the CEO and founder of Advancing Wellness. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to this expert interview where we explore topics that impact employee wellbeing. My guest today is Mache Siebel. Dr. Mache Siebel helps women in and around menopause figure it out so they don’t have to tough it out. Dr. Siebel is one of America’s leading voices on women’s wellness and menopause. He is a highly sought-after health communicator and keynote speaker, who combines health information with original music, humor and stories that emotionally capture the audience and holds their attention, while the medicine goes down.
Welcome, Mache, it’s a pleasure to have you here today.
Mache Seibel: Well, it’s my pleasure to join you and this is an important topic, and we’re talking about this topic in the context of an important meaning, so I’m looking forward to it.
Mari Ryan: Great, I’m delighted and I’m fully prepared in case things get a little bit warm here.
Mache Seibel: You know what, so am I!
Mari Ryan: [laughs] There he goes, ready to go! All right …
Mache Seibel: We’ve got some of our biggest fans with us.
Mari Ryan: We do have some big fans. It’s so interesting today because if we think about the U.S. workforce, nearly half of that workforce is made up of women. It’s a huge part of the workforce here in this country and yet, so often the topic of women’s health is either under-appreciated or just not talked about. We want to bring a little bit of this out into the open today. Let’s talk about this whole idea of menopausal symptoms and what the impact is, are people getting the treatment they need; take us through what the current situation is.
Mache Seibel: The current situation is quite interesting in that it is really a time of need, and not a time of application. If you think about it, it’s very ordinary for a woman to have a baby, and then get maternity leave. Of course, it wasn’t ordinary many years ago, but today that is a common practice. Yet, fifteen or twenty years later when that woman is transitioning into, and through, and beyond menopause, there is no specialized awareness or acknowledgement that this is a special time in a woman’s life. It’s a very important time.
If you look at it in terms of one very common symptom, hot flashes -- we were joking earlier about hot flashes – but if you think of the term hot flashes, it’s one of the common symptoms. One study of half a million women, who were Fortune 500 employees, half of them were treated for hot flashes, and the other half had hot flashes but they weren’t treated. That’s 250,000 women who weren’t treated that had 1.5 million more office visits, going to the doctor for medical care during twelve months of time at a cost of $400 million.
If you amortize that cost to the millions of women who have moderate to severe hot flashes in society, we’re talking about a cost for hot flashes alone of $14 billion dollars. We’re talking about one symptom, and when you look at the healthcare costs and utilization project, the HCUP, they figure that probably around 17.5% of the GEP is healthcare-related.
If you think about the top twenty of the symptoms, that includes things like osteoarthritis, things like acute myocardial infarction, cardiovascular artherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmia, cause of death problems, diabetes, hip fractures – these are all symptoms that are highly over-represented in menopausal women, and yet we give no acknowledgment to it. It is totally underrepresented in the workplace, effecting the quality of their life, and the quality of their work. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Mari Ryan: I find those numbers to be staggering. It’s amazing that they are so large. We have to remember the role that employers play in this country with healthcare, understandably, and especially in those particular industries where they may have a large percentage of women in their workforce, these costs are real costs to those employers.
Mache Seibel: They are very real costs, and it’s not only the cost of going to the doctor, but issues about a time of life where women are being deprived of sleep and so they’re coming off into work when they’re tired, their performance could be affected … for example, I had a woman who came in to see me, we’ll call her Jane. She came in, she was having difficulty with fogginess of thinking, she was tired and exhausted, she had a big project done, she did all the work for the project, she really busted her tush to get this project done on time … and forgot to turn it in.
Here’s what happens when we’re dealing with a problem that is real, that is impactful, and yet, it is a problem for which women often don’t want to talk about, they are afraid they will be viewed as older, they will run into ageism or other kinds of -isms that could be present, and it creates a dilemma for women in the workplace, and there has to be more done for women to let them reach their potential. Here they are at a time of life with great wisdom, great experience, knowledge, and capability, and yet, women in the forty-five to fifty-five demographic are an age group, even though they’re increasing in numbers, they are the age group that is actually dropping out of the workforce because of the challenges that are being under appreciated in the workplace.
Mari Ryan: I’m curious, what role can an employer play in supporting women’s health? We often have a situation where, as you say, folks don’t want to be categorized, or we don’t want this to be public, and we certainly want to protect personal health information in the workplace because we are required to do that. So, what role can the employer play in supporting their female members of the workforce around this topic?
Mache Seibel: I think the first is to understand that menopause and peri-menopause – that window of years leading up to menopause – is not about age. It’s about transition. Let me just say that between five and ten percent of women are going to enter menopause before age forty-five, and are going to have symptoms ten years before that. One in a hundred women is going to go into menopause at less than forty. So, if that is the case of symptoms starting ten years before, a woman could be in her twenties, or her thirties, and certainly in her early forties and having these symptoms. Menopause isn’t about age, it’s about transition. We have to first get age out of it; that’s not the point.
To address the question that you asked, there has to be part of the curriculum of the business has to be to provide menopausal information. I know, myself, when I go into companies and talk to them, I know there’s a great interest on behalf the women. You don’t have to single women out to go. You can talk to the men as well because men would be more sensitive if they had any inkling of what was going on. You can’t blame a person for ignorance, but they can still cause consequences. Some of it is to make awareness to the workforce of what’s going on, and to have opportunities to overcome this. Some of it can be in the form of flexible time, some of it could be time that’s worked at outside of the office, maybe a peripheral office or home office where people can take breaks when they need to. There has to be more control of the cooling systems in the building, or even having a seat near a window that you can actually open if you need to, bathrooms that are available – a whole host of things that can be done and should be done to give women equal footing in this situation and provide equal understanding for the men who are there so they can be more sensitive to it because it can be embarrassing and awkward and uncomfortable, and that’s what we want to avoid for these women who are facing their own challenges.
Mari Ryan: You mentioned a little bit earlier about sleep; one of the things that we find when we’re doing assessments with employers is that we often find in some cases a majority of a workforce is sleep-deprived; they’re not getting the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. I suspect a lot of this maybe be issues for women. Can you talk specifically about menopause and sleep?
Mache Seibel: Sleep is one of the top three or four things that women complain of, and it’s a big problem. Women have trouble sleeping for a variety of reasons; some of the reasons are their partners, who might be snoring or having other issues.
Mari Ryan: Or, the dog [laughs].
Mache Seibel: Or the dog, many other things. We live in a stressful world and stress and anxiety are contributors, depression. Some people when they are depressed sleep all the time, but other people who are depressed are agitated and can’t sleep. You have the issue of hormones being low; estrogen is responsible for some of the restorative sleep patterns and the sleep cycle, and those things get shortened in the absence of estrogen. You have the issue of issue of sensitive bladder, women will be up many times at night, running to the bathroom. You have the issue of restless legs, a condition where the leg jumps spontaneously, waking them, or their partner can have that and cause them to wake. You have the issue of hot flashes that can occur at night, called night sweats, that can keep women up, there can be heat and temperature intolerances that lead to sweating and drenching your gown and being unable to sleep and get up and change. Basically, there are a lot of things competing with more “Zzs,” for sleep, and all of these have solutions that can be addressed in addition to the normal anxiety and stress that many people feel contributes to poor levels of sleep.
Mari Ryan: It’s amazing anybody is getting any sleep with all of those possibilities, so that’s amazing.
Mache Seibel: A lot of them aren’t, and that’s contributing to some of those workplace issues. It’s one of a cluster of things together create a very large hammer on the workforce making it challenging.
Mari Ryan: If our audience wants to learn a little bit more about your work, or wants to be in touch with you, how can they find where you are?
Mache Seibel: Well, there’s two ways, if I can share. One of them is my website, drmache.com, and if people are interested in a site that I put together in order to help you get information and to take you to our window, you can go to bloom90.com, and you can get information there for a boot camp I’ve put together that covers people virtually, with live calls to help you.
Mari Ryan: Those are great resources, that’s wonderful. Thanks so much for taking some time today to explore this interesting topic, one that has huge economic impact for our country, and certainly for employers. I want to thank you again for your time. It’s always great to spend time with you.
Mache Seibel: Thank you for taking time to have me on, I appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Mari Ryan: Thanks.
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