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By Celeste Lee
I recently had a conversation with Ann Garnier, a modern integrative thinker who forged a successful career bringing modern tech into healthcare - using technology to improve patient outcomes on a range of complex conditions, including high risk pregnancy and pre-term birth. At 50, she thought she was one of the lucky 15% of women who would sail through perimenopause with zero problems. Unlike friends struggling with hot flashes, poor sleep, and belly fat, Ann was sleeping like the dead, felt cold all the time, and had no weight gain. But suddenly, she turned into a “sweaty dazed zombie” overnight.
Let’s find out about how she turned zombie-dom into CEO-life.
CAIRE: So out of the blue, you’re no longer in the “Lucky Meno Club” (the 15% who don’t have any menopausal issues), what was that like?
Ann: I was like HOLD ON. There is no way I am going through life like this. Not for a minute. Like most women, I made a beeline to my doctor and had a disappointing visit. She was empathetic but not helpful. From there, I went online, which is also something most women do. It was complex and confusing. It struck me that if it’s this hard for me, an empowered and knowledgeable healthcare professional, to understand what’s happening with my body and how to regain control –what’s it like for the average woman? I thought, this is NUTS. I develop technology-driven products for complex conditions for a living! So, I decided to use tech to help solve this problem for the 3.8 billion women in the world, all of whom will go through menopause. And that is how menopause became my passion.
CAIRE: So where did you start?
Ann: When I work on a new product, I always start with a review of the scientific literature and talk to experts.
CAIRE: Tell us more about why you started Lisa Health?
Ann: I’ve been in healthcare my entire career, primarily helping to start and grow venture-backed companies, including in women’s health. After many years of helping other people start companies, I thought it was my turn. When I turned 50, it seemed like a now or never proposition.
When I thought about what I wanted to focus on, I kept returning to my passion for women’s health. Specifically, what was interesting to me was what was happening to women’s health from around age 40 to 70. This life stage, thismidlife stage, is incredibly underserved.
In healthcare, we take really good care of women thru their reproductive years, and later on we take good care of women in their elder years. But there is a 30 year desert in between. Starting with menopause. There’s also a huge information gap around healthy aging and how to manage the risk of chronic disease, which increases rapidly during the midlife phase. So, between my own menopausal experience and understanding the gaps in midlife women’s health, it was clear there was a huge unmet need!
Caire: How is Lisa Health unique?
Ann: There are women who’ve found a great clinician to help with menopause symptoms. But the vast majority of women we talk to – and this is the typical journey - are so disappointed by their clinician. We hear repeatedly, “My doctor doesn’t know much about menopause.” “My doctor didn’t know about alternatives to menopausal hormone therapy.” Not surprising since less than 20% of physicians are trained in menopausal care. Most women want to try holistic solutions first, and very few doctors are trained in lifestyle or integrative medicine, which only makes their physician encounters even more disappointing.
The medical gap is not just in menopause and perimenopause knowledge. There’s an equal gap in lifestyle medicine. Clinicians are not taught lifestyle medicine in medical school. Neither do they have the time to unpack all of the symptoms a woman is experiencing and create a lifestyle plan for their patients in this lifestage, to personalize it and then to monitor it. It’s this midlife healthcare gap we are solving for at Lisa Health. We want to help women easily get the personalized support, education and care they deserve.
CAIRE: Without getting too techy, can you tell us a bit about Lisa Health’s tech?
Ann: An easy way to imagine the tech is this: If you used a period tracker when you were younger, most period trackers would tell you when your period was going to start, they helped you understand characteristics of your personal cycle and could provide education and possibly therapeutic support. A period tracker uses data analytics and AI to do that. Fertility is another example where medicine uses wearable technology and algorithms to understand your personal fertility window. An example of wearable tech is using a sensor to assess your temperature to help assess when you’re going to ovulate.
I believe that the same GenX women who’ve been using these pregnancy and fertility technologies should be able to leverage similar technology to understand what’s happening with their bodies before and during menopause. Using objective data across thousands of women, we can personalize insights and strategies that can make a fundamental difference in each woman’s unique menopause experience.
At Lisa Health, we’re using AI (artificial intelligence) and wearable tech as our principal approaches in a mobile app (soon to be released) that will make it even easier for women to use Lisa Health!
CAIRE: In essence, Lisa Health combines lots of women’s experiences to help individual women going forward?
Ann: Yes, you need data to train algorithms and make them smarter over time. By contributing data and advancing research and product innovation, women are not only helping themselves but other women. Most women dealing with hot flashes, brain fog, sleep problems, and everything else go through a long and frustrating trial and error process. Women spend so much time and money - and much of it is wasted - figuring out how to manage symptoms on their own. Many women just give up and feel forced into a scenario where they have no choice but to accept these disruptions and symptoms, and say to themselves:Oh well, I’ll just have to buck up and wait for it to go away.
At Lisa Health, we’re using technology to get to the root of what’s happening faster and deliver relief and education. In doing so, we help women feel empowered and in control, rather than frustrated and out of control.
CAIRE: What is the scope of issues that Lisa Health can help with?
Ann: We offer comprehensive support for menopause and healthy aging including more than 30 symptoms and markers of healthy aging. This is important because scientific researchers are finding that menopause symptoms, may be linked to, and at a minimum, can exacerbate the risk for chronic disease like heart disease, diabetes, and more. It’s alarming how many women over 55 already have at least one chronic condition. We have an incredible window of opportunity to change the trajectory of chronic disease risk for women by engaging early in the menopause journey on healthy aging.
CAIRE: What is the #1 thing women go to Lisa Health for?
Ann: It depends on the woman – her age, her stage, symptoms, and other characteristics. Every woman is unique, and how she wants to be supported is different. We are focused on PERSONALISATION. And women love that.
CAIRE: So when I think about holistic interventions, one recommended all over the internet is Black cohosh.
What do you think about Black cohosh?
Ann: The research is quite mixed. Some research shows that Black cohosh does appear to have positive impacts on specific menopausal symptoms, but they are very modest and depend on the individual. Other research indicates that many Black cohosh products are about as effective as a placebo at reducing menopausal symptoms, making it impossible to know which one may or may not help you. Any effects are likely to be short-term.
What’s more, because Black cohosh is an herb, it is not regulated by the FDA. It could also interact with certain medications, like blood thinners. Of the potential side effects, although rare, liver damage is the most studied, and potentially the most dangerous complication associated with black cohosh use.
At Lisa Health, we focus on evidence-based strategies that are likely to have a lasting effect in reducing the frequency and severity of a symptom and/or can teach valuable coping skills that improves quality of life. For example, there’s a lot of evidence on using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbance, anxiety, and depression. A mindfulness strategy like meditation is also helpful.
CAIRE: A lesser known menopausal ‘manifestation’ is joint ache, which definitely affects me!
What would Lisa say?
Ann: I am not a clinician, but generally speaking, there are a few key levers to consider. Inflammation is diet-driven. Watching your weight and decreasing sugar and unhealthy foods creating the inflammation around the joints is important. So firstly, follow a healthy diet. Also, move regularly. You need to exercise but safely. To learn more, check out our article on the top joint-friendly exercises and watch our master class with Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon and fellow midlife woman. She has excellent tips for joint health.
CAIRE: We’re glad that members of the Lisa Health community love using Caire Beauty for perimenopausal skin aging. What really impressed us is that you didn’t take our word for it at all, you had independent testers test the product themselves.
Check it out here: blog.lisahealth.com/blog/2021/7/9/product-review-caire-beauty
Ann: Yes, we always ask women to test products and give us feedback. Women are tough critics so if they say a product worked for them that’s a great endorsement for a brand.
CAIRE: What is your vision for Lisa Health in 5 years?
Ann: Our vision is to support millions of women around the world and empower them to have an amazing journey in midlife. We want women to celebrate this lifestage and not dread it. We want women to not feel held back because of symptoms or the stigma associated with midlife. As women, we’ve worked hard to get to where we’re at, and we have this incredible accumulation of knowledge, experience, and wisdom. This should be the best chapter of our life. Let’s make it happen!
CAIRE: Agree! Menopause should be seen as part of our natural lifecycle, not some weird disease or taboo topic.
Ann: When we enter midlife, of which menopause is part of the journey, here in the U.S. we’re suddenly seen ascrones. But there are many places where menopause is celebrated and older women are highly esteemed and valued. For those interested in learning more about the different cultural experiences of menopause, and I highly recommend it, readSlow Moon Climbsby Susan Mattern.
It’s very well researched and talks about how women have historically and culturally experienced menopause. There are or have been cultures with no word for menopause at all and have no idea what it is. And then others, where you become the top of the food chain. Menopause is celebrated and REVERED, and a woman gets a big celebration when she reaches menopause. Menopause became medicalized in the 1800’s with the rise of Western male doctors. Suddenly, women were being locked up for things like hysteria. Fortunately, that practice has ended, but the menopause life stage and all that comes with it is still shrouded in shame and silence. It’s time to end the taboos and celebrate the start of something great!
CAIRE: That is fascinating. We have a lot to learn about how culture impacts our experience of menopause. Thank you for giving us this insight and for sharing your story and giving us a glimpse into Lisa Health’s vision for this life stage and how you’re helping to improve the journey. I am sure Caire Beauty readers will be thrilled to learn about Lisa Health and how you can support them on their journey through menopause and healthy aging. If you’d like to visit Lisa Health, click here https://lisahealth.com
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