I thought I had early-onset dementia when I started menopause – HRT was a gamechanger, says Loose Women’s Nadia Sawalha | The Sun
16th October 2022

Loose Women’s Nadia Sawalha, 57, has revealed that menopause left her with such bad memory loss that she thought she had early onset dementia.

Here, she bravely opens up about the impact of the menopause and how HRT helped get her mojo back.

Before it happened to me, I knew nothing about the menopause.

My mum Betty is the most stoic person on the planet, so when she went through it in her 40s, she made absolutely no fuss. 

When I started noticing hormone changes about 10 years ago, it was a really scary time – as it is for many women.

First of all, I thought I had some sort of cancer, because I was bleeding so heavily.

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Then came the darkness, when I questioned everything about myself.

I’ve always been a “glass half full” kind of person, but I sunk into a depression.

Everything felt gloomy and the anxiety was overwhelming.

I couldn’t imagine going to work and then going out in the evening, which wasn’t great for my relationship with my husband Mark [Adderley, 51, a director and producer].

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It just became a complete no to doing two things in one day, because I knew I’d be too exhausted by 4pm. 

My skin also became insanely itchy and I started getting hot flushes.

On top of that, the brain fog and memory loss I was experiencing was very frightening – I really did think I had early onset dementia. 

I eventually realised it was the menopause, but was very suspicious about going on HRT.

I’ve never been one to go to the GP, and prefer a homeopathic approach.

'So bizarre'

The bleeding eventually stopped, but with the hair loss and weight gain, it was as though they were a permanent part of me I had to accept, and I spent eight years thinking that.

Then in September 2020, my friend and Loose Women co-panellist, Kaye Adams [59], started raving about HRT after meeting menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson while researching her book Still Hot! 42 Brilliantly Honest Menopause Stories.

I thought I’d see the doctor, too, and give HRT a try. 

I’m now on an oestrogen patch, I take progesterone and also use a gel for testosterone.

Going on to HRT, I felt so bizarre, and I think that’s why a lot of women give up on it so early.

Fabulous Menopause Matters

An estimated one in five of the UK’s population are currently experiencing it.

Yet the menopause is still whispered in hush tones like it’s something to be embarrassed about. 

The stigma attached to the transition means women have been suffering in silence for centuries. 

The Sun are determined to change that, launching the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign to give the taboo a long-awaited kick, and get women the support they need.

The campaign has three aims:

  • To make HRT free in England
  • To get every workplace to have a menopause policy to provide support
  • To bust taboos around the menopause

The campaign has been backed by a host of influential figures including Baroness Karren Brady CBE, celebrities Lisa Snowdon, Jane Moore, Michelle Heaton, Zoe Hardman, Saira Khan, Trisha Goddard, as well as Dr Louise Newson, Carolyn Harris MP, Jess Phillips MP, Caroline Nokes MP and Rachel Maclean MP. 

Exclusive research commissioned by Fabulous, which surveyed 2,000 British women aged 45-65 who are going through or have been through the menopause, found that 49% of women suffered feelings of depression, while 7% felt suicidal while going through the menopause. 

50% of respondents said there is not enough support out there for menopausal women, which is simply not good enough. It’s time to change that. 

I felt like a premenstrual teenager – my boobs blew up, my stomach blew up… You do have to tinker a bit with it.

It wasn’t like I suddenly went on HRT and felt fantastic – it took three or four months for things to settle, and for some women it doesn’t work. 

The game-changer for me was when testosterone was added into the mix after five months, because it brought back my libido and it was like the last piece of the jigsaw for my energy levels.

Since being on HRT, I’ve lost weight, and my energy and ability to focus are back to how they were before.

Prior to starting on it, I was struggling to read the autocues at work, because my eyes were so dry – something many don’t realise is actually a symptom of menopause – but now I use eye drops and everything’s improved.

I have told my daughters Maddie [19] and Kiki-Bee [15] all about the menopause, because I don’t want them to be like me and go through what I did.

I have worked really hard at not grieving for the eight years when I felt I just wasn’t myself.

For me, HRT was like the lights coming back on. 

I’ll continue to talk openly about the menopause, and that’s because I don’t want people to be as scared as I was.

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Every time we talk about it on Loose Women, we get so many people writing in. It’s a subject that people just don’t get tired of. 

Nadia supports Théa UK’s Keep A Look Out For Your Eyes campaign to raise awareness eye health (Youreyehealth.co.uk).

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