Poor memory, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating can cause problems at work and at home. Around 60% of women in menopause or perimenopause report feeling like they’re in a “brain fog”. It’s common to experience lapses in memory and concentration during the early and middle stages of menopause. This menopausal memory & concentration loss can be alarming.
One major change to the body that may cause normal forgetfulness during menopause is a reduction in the body’s hormone levels. During perimenopause, your estrogen levels go up and down a lot. This is when many women experience symptoms associated with the transition to menopause. Estrogen is one major hormone that can impact memory before or during menopause. While absolute hormone levels could not be linked with cognitive function, it is possible that the fluctuations that occur during this time could play a role in the memory problems that many perimenopausal and menopausal women suffer from.
While memory lapses in old age are popularly associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, studies have shown that most menopausal women have improvements in their memory after menopause is complete.
What Causes Memory Loss During Menopause?
In women’s health, declining estrogen levels can lead to many discomforts, common symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and mood swings. These menopause symptoms can keep you up at night and leave you feeling fatigued and mentally drained. A particular type of memory known as working memory — your ability to assimilate and manipulate new information — does not perform as well as usual during menopause.
In addition, researchers believe that estrogen may play a role in attention, mood, language, and memory. When your estrogen levels fluctuate, your brain functioning can suffer. In one study, researchers linked the severity and frequency of hot flashes to lapses in verbal memory.
Medical Treatment Options for Menopausal Memory & Concentration Loss
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) isn’t typically recommended for the memory lapses that commonly come with menopause. However, women who have been prescribed HRT for other menopausal symptoms have noticed improvements in their memory.
If hormones are the likely culprit of menopause brain fog, you might think that hormone therapy would be the answer. At one time it was believed that HRT would prevent mental decline after menopause, but that idea has fallen out of favor.
Research has repeatedly shown that HRT does little to protect against mental decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Non-pharmacological Options to Combat Menopausal Memory Loss
Exercise is good for your body and mind! Regular physical activity facilitates the growth and repair of cells and blood vessels in the brain. Avoid exercising too late in the day, as this can interfere with sleep. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that premenopausal and postmenopausal women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, five days per week. Aerobic exercise and strength training may help keep your mind in shape, too.
Get a good night’s rest.
Sleep deprivation can take a toll on your brain function. Create a healthy sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same times every day. Try not to rely on napping, caffeine, or alcohol to regulate your wakefulness. Keep your bedroom cool and well-ventilated to avoid hot flashes and take measure to decrease any other sleep disturbances.
Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids have been found to improve memory and enhance learning. Seafood lovers will be happy to know that many types of fish are packed with omega-3s, including salmon, fresh tuna, oysters, and sardines. Other foods include eggs, milk, soy milk, yogurt, oatmeal, walnuts, and peanut butter. Many kinds of pasta and bread are enriched with omega-3s. You can also find them in leafy greens like brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach.
Drink red wine
While overindulgence of alcohol can have negative effects on the body, some studies have shown that drinking one glass of red wine a few days a week can help ward off memory problems. Resveratrol, a natural chemical found in the skin of grapes, is an antioxidant that protects brain cells from damaging free radicals.
Play memory games
Mnemonics are tricks and tools you can deploy to help jog short-term memory. When you meet someone new, for example, a good way to remember their name is to say it out loud and think of a quality that person might have that begins with the same letter as their name. For example, Timothy is wearing a tie, Liliana loves lasagna.
Learn to de-stress
When we’re stressed, our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol. In the long-term, overproduction of cortisol can damage our memory and learning. The stress of aging on top of work and family responsibilities can be overwhelming. Learn to cope through mindful meditation and relaxation techniques. Many women find yoga a good source of exercise as well as relaxation.