Whilst I work in beauty, I fundamentally believe that especially as we age, no skincare or makeup can take the place of great health. That’s why this month’s ‘In Conversation With’ is with Dr Louise Wiseman.
Dr Louise is currently writing a book detailing the health challenges we older women face, as well as the wider life challenges that come up for us, at this time.
Hi Louise, you are a GP and mother of two with a passion for ageing well - where does that come from?
As a Doctor who worked in the NHS for 15 years, I have looked after many women of all different ages and have always been fascinated by ‘perceived age’ rather than real age.
A patient could be 40 with the attitude expected of someone much older, or 70 with a young outlook, consequently looking healthy, and possibly younger than their years as a result.
As a woman, I feel like I am 26 in my head sometimes (I am 44!) but am interested in finding out how to age well in my 40s, 50s and so on, like those patients I loved and admired.
You are writing a book - what made you get started with that?
I worked as a GP Partner in a busy rural practice, which I loved. At 39 I was unfortunate enough to catch an ‘atypical pneumonia’- a nasty bug that can knock a healthy person down in their tracks.
After a spell in hospital and sick leave I recovered and returned to work, however, I found it increasingly difficult emotionally to leave my children for half of the week and decided with the support of my husband I wanted to make a career where I could work from home.
My plan initially was to write a medical thriller which is half complete but I then felt a definite urge to return to medicine but on my own terms. Everyone around me was always asking for medical advice and my girlfriends especially asked my help to stay well and look young!
I had a life-changing moment when I thought how fantastic it would be to compile all the information that was in my head, plus up to date research discussed with specialists in the relevant fields and put it into a book for real women like me and my friends. To make it even more exciting I decided to seek out and interview 50 prolific women who inspire me and would motivate others, some famous, some simply revolutionary with what they have achieved in their lives.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
I have always been very determined and driven. As a child, my mother used to try and make me take a break from revision!
The women I interview are a massive inspiration. When you are talking to a previous President of a Global brand in the USA, or a successful reality star with two businesses, or a Consultant Dermatologist and they tell you that this book is desperately needed and that women want to hear this information, then you know you have struck a chord.
I also have an element of pride that I must make this a success. I walked away from a successful career to be with my children and now this is the time for me to get back to using my medical brain and working with women again in a fun, stimulating way.
Tell us about the factual side of the book- what areas of women’s health particularly interest you?
I am writing about all aspects of women’s health from top to toe: psychology, nutrition and exercise all the way to eye health and gynaecology.
The power of nutrition is a magical thing and I have been working with advice from Yvonne Wake who is a well known Public Health Nutritionist and I have been cooking from scratch for two years and educating myself about nutrition.
I am constantly refining my own exercise regime into something that can be done at home with light weights, yoga mat, and so on.
Women want maximum results in minimum time, so I am honoured to be working with Christina Howells (That Girl London) and Jenni Rivett (Princess Diana’s Personal Trainer) to get as much accurate information out there about strengthening our muscle and maintaining it as we age and in turn keeping our bones strong and healthy and preventing osteoporosis.
Dealing with menopause will be a large section of the book - how to handle it naturally or with medical intervention and what your choices really are.
Also, how to make the most of any consultations with your GP.
Are there any key ‘healthy ageing’ tips that you think are relevant to all women?
I think nutrition is key to a large part of this. You cannot live a healthy life if you are not nourishing your cells from within. Gut health is imperative for general health and for your skin to be optimised.
Understanding the importance of adequate vitamins and minerals from healthy fresh food. Sometimes good supplements may be appropriate but most should be direct from your diet.
Obviously, the role of a healthy intake of water and reducing or eliminating caffeinated drinks and the effect of this on our skin and general health.
The deleterious effect of refined sugar on everything is shocking– skin, body, hormones and mood. I say this as a remitting-relapsing chocolate addict!
I do urge women to consider how alcohol depletes our bodies and affects hormones/weight/energy and skin. You may not choose to be teetotal but at least be mindful of your drinking, just like your eating.
Finally, I think the importance of maintaining a good sex life and feeling sexy is an issue that is not addressed and swept under the carpet at a certain age. This I will write about in the book, frankly as a Doctor should.
I think looking well and looking like me are important - the very best version of myself.
I am not ashamed to say I like a good fake tan and to keep my skin looking good. In the past, I have had drawers full of unused products but by researching about ingredients and learning from a top Dermatologist I am refining what works for me and can help others.
What challenges have you faced personally getting older?
As a young person, I was always naturally slim.
With one child I gained 4 stone, the other 3.5 stone - lost it in between and after.
There was a definite switch at 40 years that said, ‘you cannot eat all that chocolate cake and the white wine and stay the same size!’
You have to work to stay fit but also exercise massively benefits our mood and hormones over the age of 40.
Who are your ageing role models?
Meryl Streep and Judi Dench I adore for their ‘graceful ageing’. My mother who has maintained a fantastic enthusiasm for life and her grandchildren and she has great skin.
Any woman who has enthusiasm for living and is not letting age stop her doing what she wants, women like Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton. Kylie Minogue was one of my idols as a teen and she hasn’t stopped because she is not in her twenties, she has embraced life to become the best version of herself.
Surely that is all as women that we want to be, but with some years of wisdom behind us!
There’s a big debate around the word 'anti-ageing' right now - what are your thoughts?
Ageing is natural - I prefer ‘graceful ageing’ or ‘ageing with beauty and strength’.
We are losing from the start if we use the term anti-ageing as we will never be able to. Even a child is ‘ageing’.
Much is being made now of older women being invisible. What are your thoughts?
I don’t think ANY of my friends or the phenomenal women I’ve met feel invisible, although there’s certainly strength in numbers.
There is still a lot of work to do to empower women with their health though and taboos need to be shaken off. I regularly discuss ideas with Dr Louise Pendry, a Psychology lecturer and we both want to promote positive ageing.
I know you love beauty and skincare, will that be in the book?
Yes, a lot of it! As a Doctor, I cannot favour brands in theory, but I am also an everyday woman writing this book, so I will be talking about those ingredients and products I think work well. Some of these are of course from Studio10!
Skin is a large section of the book and as a living organ needs to be protected and nourished, then you will glow.
Treatment wise I will be talking about what works and is safe ranging from natural to partly interventional.
Makeup and clothing are also large factors in this along with self-esteem. I was reapplying makeup twenty minutes after my emergency caesareans – I am not ashamed to say I am a product and makeup junkie!
Who are your beauty and lifestyle influences?
I read a book about 18months ago by Elissa Epel and Elizabeth Blackburn called ‘The Telomere effect’ which showed how a good lifestyle can reverse some of the ageing effects on your chromosomes.
This was another lightbulb moment for me and made me very determined to improve my health further and improve my already healthy lifestyle.
Louise can be found on Instagram @drlouisewrites and Twitter @drlouisewriting