After perimenopause-induced sleep problems, anxiety and debilitating bleeding forced her to turn down work in her 40s, the presenter and HRT advocate tells us the menopause lessons she's learned

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With a popular podcast series, regular fashion slots on This Morning and a cool 407k Instagram followers, it's hard to imagine that, behind-the-scenes, former model Lisa Snowdon , 50, was experiencing debilitating health problems just a few years ago. We're talking insomnia , hair thinning , severe anxiety and periods  so heavy she was afraid of sitting down in public – all changes she now knows were due to the perimenopause  which started eight years ago in her early 40s.

"My symptoms developed year by year. Initially, when I was 42, I was put on antidepressants but I quickly knew there was something else going on, " she tells us. "My menstrual cycles became really erratic and I often couldn't get out of bed because I had such pain and heavy bleeding. I was scared to sit in a restaurant or on a bus – it was like I was haemorrhaging blood."

"Then I started getting angry rages, too. I could be having a great day then something would just change and I'd turn into a crazy person. Next, came the extreme night sweats that would leave the bed soaked and me frazzled, needing coffee to keep me going. The lack of control and confidence really got into my head and I started turning down work," she continues.

Finally, Lisa realised she was going through menopause and credits getting the right  HRT (hormone replacement therapy)  as the turning point to feeling back in control.

"I haven't had a bleed or period for a couple of years now. At first, I was sad to say goodbye to them because I thought it was losing my femininity. But now I'm like, 'good riddance!'

"As soon as I started on the right HRT, my symptoms began to disappear. From my skin and sleep to energy levels, everything improved. Of course, I don't look the same as I did when I was 25 but I genuinely feel better. I have a new self-acceptance and respect for my body," says Lisa who now describes the menopause as a time to be "fearless and the best version of yourself."

What HRT does Lisa Snowdon take?

What exactly is the winning HRT combination for Lisa? "I take testosterone  (Androfeme),  progesterone  (Utrogestan) and oestrogen  (Lenzetto).

"Lenzetto is a little spray that I keep with me at all times. You can get it from the GP although I get mine from my private doctor –  Dr Naomi Potter  – for around £20 for 56 sprays. It's not for everyone but I like that it dries quickly unlike a gel.

"I also get the testosterone from Dr Potter. It's expensive at around £80 but it lasts me three to four months. It's a super low dose and I only use it very sparingly.

"The testosterone was the missing piece of the puzzle for me. It's definitely given me more energy and a little bit more libido, but it's mainly about improving my cognitive function," explains Lisa who is also ambassador for Prai Beauty Ageless Superboost Capsules with Hyaluronic Acid , £28 for 30.

While she's an advocate for HRT, Lisa credits other factors in her shift, too – including a change in lifestyle (it's out with the coffee and wine, and in with Pilates and strength training).

She also champions the importance of community and support – both of which inspired her to start her popular Midweek Menopause Madness  live sessions on Instagram last year. Describing the interactive initiative as "a safe space where people can come and listen," Lisa hosts these alongside Dr Potter every Wednesday at 6pm.

She's even part of the Menopause Mandate – a group of seven influential women, including Davina McCall , Mariella Frostrup  and Carolyn Harris MP – campaigning for change in the way the perimenopause and menopause are treated by parliament, health services and the media.

So, eight years after her symptoms first took hold (when she says she didn't even know the word 'perimenopause' existed) what has Lisa learned about the menopause? Here, she shares her lessons...

1. A menopausal woman doesn't look how you imagine

"There's no white hair – we look gorgeous, fierce and fantastic. I always thought I'd be in my 50s or later when going through the menopause but the perimenopause started in my early 40s.

"That's sometimes considered quite 'young' although there's no 'correct' age; it really is so variable. Everyone is on their own personal journey."

2. Oestrogen impacts every part of the body

"Oestrogen receptors are everywhere, from the spine to the top of the head and the tips of the toes. That's why we get such a wide range of symptoms as our oestrogen  depletes during the menopause. It can affect hair quality, brain quality, the inside of the mouth, bowel function...

"I experienced changes to my eyesight, thinning hair and even scary adrenaline surges just as I was falling asleep. They were like those dreams where you fall off a cliff but they felt like a heart attack was happening at the same time.

"Even my face shape started to look different as my skin and neck changed. It can feel as though you've aged overnight. For me, taking oestrogen oiled everything up again – like WD40 for my body. It gave me my bounce, bone structure and waist back."

3. HRT isn't scary

"There was so much HRT scare-mongering in the early 2000s but I've learned there's nothing to be afraid of. I understand some women still don't want to go down that route but, in my mind, HRT is a natural way of managing the menopause as it's simply replacing what the body has stopped producing. It can also offer other additional benefits such as some protection against conditions like osteoporosis, heart disease and vascular dementia.

"HRT isn't a 'silver bullet' – you do need to take a 360 approach across your whole lifestyle – but it can help with cognitive brain function, IBS , your skin... everything."

4. You have to take control of the changes

"When we're in perimenopause or menopause, our body can see some foods and drink as a poison and produce histamine. That's why a lot of women get really drunk very quickly, feel red and blotchy then very hungover. For a while, I swapped white wine for a nice tequila, lime and soda. I've also had to knock coffee on the head as it gives me anxiety – it makes my chest flutter and my brain spirals.

"Really try and assess what's happening to your body. You can write a list or a food diary to learn your triggers. You want to keep everything – including your blood sugar levels – nice and level. When you add cortisol into the mix, it creates inflammation and can make you swollen and puffy.

"It's a little bit of trial and error but be patient with yourself as it's not forever – it's only a period of time."

5. Doing some movement every day is key

"I remember a few years ago, I was on holiday in Paris with my friends and I'd brought this little leather skirt with me. It no longer sat on my hips and ended up looking way too short. I don't own any scales but I decided then to weigh myself – that was the wake-up call I needed. I'd put on about three stone over a couple of years.

"I didn't let it ruin my holiday and I still wore the skirt but when I got back, I decided I needed to fire my metabolism up again and start pushing myself by going for brisk walks twice a day. Then I discovered strength and resistance training is really beneficial as you get older – it's great for muscle mass and bone density. No one wants to pick up a bag and put their back out!

"I love Pilates reformer and do that regularly. You've got to be positive and put the work in. It's not easy and you've got to push yourself but it's worth it."

6. The menopause can be fabulous

"Yes, in the beginning it can be difficult to navigate but once you're armed with the right knowledge and you've got the menopause under control, it can an be an amazingly positive time in your life. I don't want people to fear it.

"Asian cultures call it the menopause "our second spring." It's a time to be the best version of yourself and be fearless. We no longer have periods and the pain and uncertainty that comes with them and I really do feel better now than I did in my 20s.

"I've got a huge respect and acceptance for my body now. I'm more settled and focused on the right things – not worrying about the silly imperfections that just don't mean anything in the bigger scheme of things. I'm grateful to my body for getting me to 50. That's something that really should be celebrated."

7. Support is crucial

"Being able to talk to your partner and friends, and having a sense of community is so helpful. That's why I wanted to start my Midweek Menopause Madness sessions on Instagram. People don't necessarily have to join in – they can take nuggets of information then make an educated decision abut what's happening to them and the route they want to go down.

"Swot up as much as you can. I have three main menopause books  in my arsenal. I love The Perimenopause Solution by Dr Shahzadi Harper and Emma Bardwel l and Cracking The Menopause by Mariella Frostrup and Alice Smellie.

Oestrogen Matters, by Dr Avrum Bluming and Carol Tavris , is another really interesting one. It explains what oestrogen does, why we need it and how it can protect us as we get older."

Lisa Snowdon is an ambassador for   Prai Beauty Ageless Superboost Capsules with Hyaluronic Acid , £28 for 30.