For many women, going through menopause also means experiencing acute “brain fog,” a frustrating phenomenon that impairs your cognition and leads to difficulty concentrating and lapses in memory.
This sudden change in your cognitive function can be alarming and downright frustrating, but don’t worry: it turns out that brain fog due to menopause is normal, temporary, and there are plenty of ways to prevent it from impacting your daily life.
How Menopause Can Affect Your Memory
As you approach menopause, your body starts making key changes: namely, it starts to decrease the levels of your reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone. The most obvious effect of this is that you start to have an irregular period, but these hormones also play a key role in regulating your brain health.
Estrogen receptors are found throughout our brains and nervous systems, meaning estrogen levels affect how your brain functions and uses energy. Since your brain is the control center for every action that your body takes, conscious and unconscious, a decrease in estrogen levels has the potential to affect the functioning of these parts of your body.
This can lead to the most well-known and frustrating symptoms of menopause: the hot flashes, the mood swings, and the decreased sex drive.
It also means that the part of your brain that controls your memory and learning is affected, leading to fogginess, inability to learn and concentrate, and temporary memory lapses.
Is Menopause The Reason I’m So Foggy?
While menopause can definitely affect your brain function, it’s not the only thing that can cause temporary memory lapses. Impaired memory can also be due to a variety of things, including:
- Normal menstrual cycles
- Certain medications
So if you want to know the root cause behind your brain fog, you can start by ruling out other medical conditions and lifestyle factors. One of the most telling signs that your memory issues are stemming from menopause is to take a look at your menstrual cycle: if it has become irregular and you have other symptoms of perimenopause, like slowing metabolism and hot flashes, chances are that you are experiencing menopausal brain fog.
How To Deal With Menopausal Memory Loss
First, it’s important to know that menopausal brain fog is temporary and not necessarily related to cognitive decline that comes from aging. This means that, while it can be worrying and disruptive while it’s happening, it doesn’t mean that your brain won’t be able to bounce back.
But while it’s happening, there are things you can do to stop it from having an effect on your life. Some ways that you can prevent menopausal brain fog include:
Try Hormone Replacement Therapy.
For many women, the best approach to surviving their menopause transition may be to see their doctor and discuss using HRT. It is a safe option for many and there is increasing evidence that women who use HRT have lower rates of dementia in older age. Whilst it’s not possible, safe or desirable for every woman, HRT may be a good choice for many women.
Add some omega-3s into your diet.
You’ve probably heard about how good omega-3 fatty acids are for your heart, and it turns out that they’re also a crucial component of any healthy diet if you want to combat cognitive decline. The omega-3s DHA and EPA specifically are associated with better brain health and memory, and many people don’t get enough of these fatty acids in their regular diet to reap the benefits.
You can get these healthy fats from fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and you can also get them from supplements like fish oil pills.
Practice healthy sleep habits.
Inadequate sleep and fatigue are common problems among people who have a hard time concentrating and remembering things. It also doesn’t help that many women who are going through menopause start to experience interruptions in their normal sleep cycles, further contributing to the problem.
Get into a regular nighttime routine: start winding down earlier in the night, keep your bedroom a sleep-only zone. You may also want to put away the screens earlier in the night since they can emit blue light that disrupts your ability to fall asleep.
Moving your body more is a proven way to combat brain fog and improve your cognitive abilities, memory included.
Get into the habit of setting time aside every day to exercise, whether it’s walking, following along with a fitness class, lifting weights - whatever it takes to get your body moving and the juices flowing.
Try a natural nootropic.
Nootropics are supplements that are used to boost your brain performance. Studies have found that some herbal supplements like Gingko biloba might help increase your cognitive function including memory.
Other herbs to look out for that can help improve your memory include ashwagandha, ginseng, and maca root extract.
Menopausal memory lapses are common but frustrating. Luckily, they are also temporary, and there are several things you can do to improve your brain function and prevent it from hindering your work and personal life.