Menopause and Memory Loss
Forgetting where you put your keys a lot lately? Leaving that shopping list at home all of the time? Having trouble remembering names for all of those faces? Menopausal women often complain of fuzzy thinking, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating; some even wonder if this is the beginning of dementia.
There is no need to worry; you are most likely not losing your mind! Short term memory loss is very common and probably has very little to do with menopause itself. Read on to find out what the causes of memory loss during menopause are and what you can do to fight memory loss.
Memory and the Brain
Memory is a very complex mechanism and is not completely understood even today. It's pretty hard to imagine that you can fit all you need to know and more inside what is really a fairly small computer. But our brains are specially tuned to store, retain, and retrieve large amounts of information. Our brain knows what information to keep on hand and what information to forget, at least for the most part. Without memory, we would not be able to go about our daily business.
Our memories work in three stages: registration, retention, and recall. When we make observations in our daily life, our brain registers what we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and think. If we continually repeat or remember something that we observe, our brain keeps this information in our short-term memory.
The Short and Long of It
Usually only small bits of information can be kept in short term memory, with superfluous information being thrown out (and forgotten) or stored in long term memory for further use. Short-term memory is reserved for information that we need to access quickly. For instance, our short term memory can recall a phone number for just the amount of time we need to dial it.
Long-term memory is responsible for remembering facts about our past. It holds onto information about our days at work last week, that vacation we took last year, or about those summers we enjoyed when we were kids. Long-term memory also takes care of remembering necessary things, such as word meanings and semantics, the history of the world, and place locations and dates.
Special sections of our long-term memory are devoted to retaining information we need on a daily basis to survive. Procedural memory tells us how to walk, talk and eat, while our prospective memory reminds us what we need to do today, tomorrow, or next week.
Memory Loss and Menopause
Though our memories usually work pretty efficiently most of the time, we have all experienced lapses in what we can remember. Memory loss is a natural part of aging. But menopausal women often complain of "brain freeze" or the inability to retrieve certain information when they need it. You may have noticed that you have trouble finding that word you want to use or that you can't remember the name of your new coworker. Slight memory loss is a normal sign of menopause, but there is no clear consensus as to what causes short term memory loss.
It was once thought that fluctuating levels of estrogen were to blame for fuzzy brains during menopause. Estrogen does play an active role in memory. Estrogen stimulates neurotransmitters, which allow parts of your brain to communicate with one another. Estrogen also helps dilate blood vessels in the brain, increasing the flow of red blood cells that help the brain to function. During female menopause, your estrogen levels decrease. In the past, efforts to stave off menopause memory loss called for estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). However, it appears that estrogen actually does little to improve memory.
Because estrogen doesn't play a major part in memory loss or gain, researchers have been looking for other reasons for your brain's fuzziness during menopause. It seems that symptoms of menopause may contribute to your forgetfulness.
Menopause is a time of extreme stress for many women. Weight gain in menopause, hot flashes, mood swings they all contribute to massive amounts of tension. Menopause depression can lead to difficulty retaining and retrieving information. Lack of sleep combined with poor nutrition can make it extremely hard for your brain to keep up.
There are a few ways to keep your memory sharp and your brain in tune. These natural remedies for menopause will keep you ahead of the count. If you are eager to have the best brain on the block, here are a few memory loss treatments to sharpen up with:
- Activate your Brain: Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs exercise too! Keep sharp with crossword puzzles, brainteasers, or evening or weekend classes. Travel is an excellent way to increase your brain power without having to do too much work!
- Get your Rest: Menopause and insomnia often go hand in hand. Menopause night sweats might be keeping you up, but it is necessary to try and get some sleep. Sleep will keep your energy levels at a premium so your brain can think clearly and remember information when you need it. Sleep at least eight hours a day.
- Eat Right: Poor nutrition may not seem like a big thing, but without the proper nutrients your brain can't lay down information properly. Menopause treatment often involves a special diet. Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, a balance of protein and carbohydrates, and avoid alcohol, which only impairs memory. Certain foods have been linked with improved mental acuity including blueberries, fish, legumes, and soy products.
- Reduce Stress: Stress causes your body to release the hormone cortisole, which blocks memories from being stored. All menopausal women have stress, but it particularly affects those going through early menopause or surgical menopause. Try practicing deep breathing, yoga, swimming, or walking to reduce stress.