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Menopause Can Change Your Brain

As women age, their ovaries stop producing regular amounts of estrogen and progesterone. The age at which this happens varies, but can start as early as the late-30’s or until late-50’s.

Typically, symptoms of menopause include mood swings, sleep problems, and hot flashes. Less commonly reported symptoms are memory issues and the dreaded “brain fog,” because they are written off as a symptom of “getting older.”

Brain fog is the term that lumps together different components that stem from mental fatigue, including memory issues, confusion, attention issues, etc. Often, brain fog is experienced throughout a person’s life, especially during times of fatigue or exhaustion, but many women don’t realize that these things naturally occur during menopause.

How Does Menopause Alter Brain Function?

Research shows a correlation between the fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone, which occurs naturally in menopause, and the symptoms associated with brain fog. Menopause, simply because of the way it changes hormones in the body, also impacts the brain. Interestingly, when hormone levels fluctuate outside of menopause, the same mental slump and weaker memory occur.

When hormones in the brain change, everything else (behavior, body functions, etc.) does too. Blood flow changes to the brain occur in women who have frequent hot flashes, which affect the part of the brain that deals with processing speeds, which then influence word association and memory.

Estrogen is an integral part of the brain’s internal signaling symptom and helps communicate the parts of the brain that need more blood flow. During menopause, your body goes through days where it doesn’t produce enough estrogen, and other days where too much is produced. Your body tries to compensate, resulting in the familiar fatigue and memory loss.

Can Brain Changes in Menopause Be Reversed?

Research published in the journal of Neurology covered a group of 800 women over six years, and throughout the study, the brain function was tested each year: Data showed that as the menopausal cycle went from beginning stages to later stages, cognitive decline worsened.

Fortunately, none of the cognitive effects were permanent, and no structural damage to the brain was found to linger after menopause. An important aspect of the study that will need to be further evaluated is whether the cognitive decline that occurs naturally in old age happens for the same hormonal reasons as menopause.

Natural Ways to Help Alleviate Effects of Menopause

Symptoms of menopause are worsened by lack of sleep and stress, and there are some natural remedies to help ease these effects. One way some find relief is Hormone Replacement Therapy, which comes with mixed reviews and risks, however.

Here are natural lifestyle habits that effect brain function during menopause, and things you can do to help:

  • Brain fog and moodiness are exacerbated by chronic and daily stress, so take a good, long look at how to influence this aspect of your lifestyle, and perhaps seek professional help.
  • Studies by Harvard University sleep experts showed that participants who regularly were a part of organized relaxation groups saw a 30 percent decrease in their symptoms, including hot flashes and depression.
  • Sleep restfully at least 7-8 hours a night. Adults need at least 7-8 hours of good quality sleep to maintain mental sharpness, a healthy weight, and a positive mood.
  • Fuel your body with whole foods, vitamins, and minerals that provide you with more natural energy and will-power, but fewer cravings.
  • Even if you’re tired, get your daily dose of exercise anyway. It provides natural energy, revs “happy” endorphins for your mood, and can help preserve and increase brain function.

 

If you feel like your brain fog is more than menopause or getting older, there may be another underlying cause. Contact Amen Clinics to help pinpoint and treat memory issues, and their underlying causes.

 

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COMMENTS

  1. SRC says:

    Yes, obviously, to alleviate symptoms of menopause one must get 7-8 hrs of sleep. And obviously still, this is an effect of menopause and acquiring the required amount of sleep is impossible during this stage in ones life. It’s a vicious cycle. It’s an annoying suggestion. I wish more than anything to sleep.

    • Margaret says:

      How is it impossible, exactly? I found that I was ignoring my body’s signals to go to bed at a reasonable time (sleepiness, e.g.), and that was a bad habit I had acquired. Once I actually got myself to bed — ignoring my wishes to do more than is possible in a day — I usually slept quickly and well. Not saying you don’t have a problem, just suggesting there are different ways of approaching the problem (e.g., not everyone finds warm milk effective). For me, it was dealing with the anxiety of leaving some things unfinished for the day. Good luck.

    • Allyson says:

      Diet is EVERYTHING.

  2. Sherri Jonest says:

    I was told by my doctor to exercise and push myself. I did and it worked. You can try warming milk up and adding 1 teaspoon of vanilla then add Stevia to sweeten. It tastes delicious and increases serotonin. It puts me to sleep within 30 minutes.

  3. Sabine says:

    Two messages in this post, that “getting older is a drag” and that “cognitive decline is inevitable as we age” are diametrically opposed to Dr. Amen’s messages elsewhere. (I’m going to guess that this post was written by someone in their early 30’s 🙂 — So which is it?

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