It’s Not in Your Head: Menopause & Memory Loss

Memory and cognitive abilities change throughout life, but during the menopause transition, trouble concentrating and remembering — sometimes described as “brain fog” — are common. These symptoms may be bothersome or even frightening for some women who are worried about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

by The North American Menopause Society
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It’s not your imagination—studies show that women who complain of memory problems really do perform more poorly on tests of attention, working memory, “encoding,” and verbal skills. These women also have more symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance. Women with lower levels of estrogen struggled especially with memory encoding, and these memory troubles probably have something to do with hormonal changes —the most abrupt of which happen in the months after a woman’s last period.

The good news is that these menopausal memory changes are only temporary. Women’s former memory levels usually return after the menopause transition is over. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for preventing and dealing with memory loss:

Use memory tools: Get help from calendars, to-do lists, and notes. Make remembering easy by returning wallets, purses, keys, and glasses to the same place each day.

Challenge that brain: Learn a new skill, a new language, or try a crossword puzzle or Sudoku. You can download a brainteaser app for brain-building on the go.

Get social: Spend time with friends and family whenever possible or volunteer in the community, a local school, or a retirement home. Social interaction has been shown to delay and prevent cognitive problems.

Get off the couch: Exercise and physical activity will help the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain.  A recent study found that people with higher fitness levels in middle age were less likely to develop dementia later in life.

Eat brain-nourishing foods: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, albacore tuna, walnuts, and flaxseeds, are good for your brain. One study showed that those who ate a Mediterranean diet (full of omega-3s) were 13% less likely to develop memory and thinking problems.

Get lots of rest: For adults, 6 to 9 hours of sleep per night are recommended. Good sleep is essential for learning and memory.

Next: Perimenopausal Migraines: What You Need to Know

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