Menopause Symptoms and Brain Health
We all know menopause changes your body. But did you know menopause can also affect brain health? Hormone changes caused by menopause can cause cognitive issues like memory loss, learning problems, and trouble concentrating.
These changes may be so gradual that you might not notice them at first or so insignificant that you don’t pay them any attention. But is the brain fog you’ve been having really just a symptom of menopause, or something more serious?
Menopause Symptoms: An Overview
The National Institute on Aging defines menopause as a “point in time 12 months after a woman’s last period.” During the years leading up to that point, women may experience perimenopause, the life stage leading to menopause.
Symptoms of perimenopause and menopause may include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Changes in monthly cycles
- Mood changes
- Vaginal health issues
- Changes in sleep patterns (add from article)
Changes in cognitive performance are another important yet often ignored symptom of menopause.
How Does Menopause Affect Cognitive Function?
Up to “two thirds” of menopausal women report having problems with memory, concentration, and executive function.
For a long time, we only had informal evidence of the cognitive difficulties menopausal women face.
If you’ve been having trouble concentrating on your favorite book or struggling to remember words since beginning your menopause transition, it’s not just in your head. The fluctuating hormone levels in your brain could be the cause of concentration problems.
Is It Really Just Menopause?
Fortunately, menopause-related brain fog is often mild and can disappear on its own with time, just like other unpleasant aspects of menopause, like hot flashes. For many women, this is a huge relief. It can be incredibly reassuring to know that there’s a reason you keep misplacing your phone or struggle to concentrate on your favorite book.
But there’s just one problem—how do you know if your cognitive problems are really just menopause?
The symptoms of menopause-related brain fog and other age-related cognitive disorders often overlap.
You might have been dismissing your brief lapses in memory as just another quirk of menopause when, in reality, they could be the start of early-onset dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Just because menopause can bring on cognitive problems, this doesn’t mean that your memory lapses are menopause-related.
But how do you tell the difference? What should you look out for when it comes to lapses in your cognitive abilities?
Menopause Memory Problems vs. Alzheimer’s Disease
Minor lapses in memory here and there happen to the best of us and are usually nothing to be concerned about. But if your cognitive problems are reaching the point they interfere with your daily quality of life, it might be time to talk to a doctor.
Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Repeating questions over and over
- Getting lost easily, even in a familiar area
- Trouble following directions or accomplishing simple tasks
- Difficulty remembering words, even for familiar objects
- Problems with decision-making
- Trouble handling money or remembering to pay bills on time
- Significant changes in mood, personality, or behavior
When in doubt, it’s always best to raise your concerns with your doctor rather than dismiss them as nothing. However, even if you don’t have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, there are times when menopause-related cognitive decline can linger rather than naturally fade.
How Can I Relieve Cognitive Symptoms Brought on by Menopause?
In general, living a healthy lifestyle can help you balance your hormones during menopause, alleviate cognitive symptoms.
Eat foods that promote brain health, such as whole fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and nuts. There are also foods high in estrogen sources that are worth looking into.
- Look for foods with omega-3s, such as fish, which can boost brain power.
- Include leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collards in your meals. These are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like folate and vitamin E.
- Avoid eating sugar and processed foods, which can not only increase brain fog
- Eat dairy products rich in calcium to help offset your risk of developing osteoporosis, which increases during menopause.
- Consume foods that contain phytoestrogens—plant-based compounds that mimic estrogen in the body—such as flaxseeds, soy, peaches, garlic.
Regular exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and an oxygenated brain is a healthy brain.
Even a brisk walk down the block with your partner or pet can help you lift your mental fog. Exercise can also help ward off menopause-related weight gain.
Of course, you can also exercise your brain directly. Mindfulness exercises like meditation can increase your focus and help you concentrate on your important tasks more easily. You can even combine mindfulness with physical activities like yoga to get the best of both worlds!
Sleep and brain health go hand-in-hand. A lack of sleep can make you feel irritable and more forgetful than usual.
As noted earlier, shifts in sleep are common during menopause, so it’s essential to follow a regular sleep schedule and develop a bedtime routine. This may include reading a book, listening to soothing music, or taking a warm bath. Exercising and avoiding caffeine late in the day can also be helpful.
The Bottom Line
While menopause can leave you feeling foggy or out of sorts, you can take steps to alleviate your symptoms by investing in your health.
Keep an eye out for any cognitive problems that negatively impact your life, and contact your doctor if you feel that something is out of place. Whether you or someone you love is going through this transitionary period in life, remember to always be kind, patient, and understanding.
To learn more about the personalized health program available at DP World’s Aviv Clinics Dubai and discover how we can help, contact the clinic.