Women often report that menopause and memory loss are a common problem creating a “brain fog” which reaches into every element of their lives. This can be both frustrating and upsetting but usually, these effects are temporary and will pass. Longer-term memory problems should be properly explained by a medical professional.
Menopause and memory
Memory loss in menopause is thought to be connected to hormonal imbalances as a woman’s oestrogen production drops. Oestrogen affects the cognitive functions through its influence on the vascular and immune systems and drops in levels can have an effect on short term memory. The hormone also plays a role in attention, mood, language, and memory so when your oestrogen levels fluctuate, your brain functioning can suffer.
Your working memory, which is your ability to assimilate and use new information, does not function as well in the menopausal period. This makes concentration difficult and can lead to an increase in frustrating events like missing appointments or losing keys.
Women often report:
- struggling to remember names or words
- fogginess in lateral thinking
- struggling to concentrate
- feeling disconnected
Tiredness is another common symptom of menopause which can have an impact on our memory skills. Night sweats, sleeplessness, anxiety and stress can all add to a woman’s experience of menopause and exacerbate memory issues.
Stress is another common sign of menopause and memory loss. When under stress, the brain produces cortisol to increase energy and alertness. When stress is chronic or ongoing, the brain is filled with cortisol for emergency use which can obstruct some cognitive processes, leading to short term memory issues. At the same time, major medical conditions such as hypo-or hyperthyroidism, heart failure or liver impairment which emerge in later life can also affect memory.
Memory loss and menopause
There are a number of things you can do to help manage the impacts of menopause and memory loss in your everyday life. We recommend:
- for through information by drawing ‘mind maps’ or using word association to help you remember key pieces of information or ideas. Keeping the brain active has helped some women, and the simple repetition of important points can also be useful. You could also consider adult education classes to engage your mind.
- Talk to your healthcare provider. An experienced doctor such as Mr Broome would be able to discuss whether hormone replacement therapy may help you. It’s not known to directly impact memory function but it can relieve the hot flushes, sweats and other symptoms which often disrupt sleep.
Make exercise and creative pursuits become part of your lifestyle – these two activities even support each other. Allow at least 30 minutes for exercise 3-4 times a week and choose something you love. And remember that creativity isn; y just about making art or music.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bedtime and think carefully about the content of your diet. Taking a Mediterranean approach to the way you eat is recommended, including plenty of omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish like salmon and mackerel to enhance learning and memory.
The menopause is an important transition in a woman’s life and can take from months to years to complete. If you’re suffering from the effects of menopause, either emotionally or physically, then there are ways to alleviate symptoms and enjoy life more. Follow the advice above to take matters into your own hands, and seek medical advice if needed.