Why Menopause Makes You Forget Your Husband's Name
Menopausal symptoms range from hot flashes to mood swings, osteoporosis to reduced immune health, but what about memory loss? Memory is affected by more than just age, changes to the body's other systems can also have an impact on memory. For many women, it may seem like a minor issue at first, as memory loss is a gradual process. Still, for women experiencing perimenopause or menopause, memory loss can become a source of great frustration to add to the heap of symptoms.
Why does memory loss happen during menopause?
The relationship between menopause and memory loss is not entirely understood. Menopause begins when estrogen production in the body decreases, and when estrogen drops, it has a series of effects on the rest of the body, particularly the brain. The most substantial correlation that researchers have noticed between menopause and memory loss is the increase of insomnia during and after menopause.
Sleep deprivation during menopause is one of the most common symptoms a woman can experience, apart from hot flashes, weight gain, and mood swings. Menopause causes a decrease of progesterone, which, combined with the hormone melatonin, helps the body prepare for sleep. When this decrease occurs, the body has more difficulty falling asleep.
Without proper rest, the brain cannot process and retain information. The deepest form of sleep, rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM sleep), is responsible for helping the brain store information in long-term memory. If the sleep patterns that help lead us into REM sleep are interrupted, like waking up several times during the night, memory becomes severely impacted. Therefore, without proper sleep during menopause, memory loss is more likely to present itself. Insomnia and other sleep deprivation disorders can also quicken how fast memory loss occurs.
Hot flashes and memory loss
For some women, memory lapses during hot flashes can become a major distraction during the day, especially in the professional sphere. This lapse in memory is thought to be caused by a sharp increase in cortisol levels in the body that can impact areas of the brain, like the hippocampus. It's also possible that hot flashes cause blood circulation to decline in certain parts of the brain, as raising the body temperature causes blood vessels in the upper body to expand.
Are memory lapses or slight memory loss signs of dementia/Alzheimer's?
Memory loss and lapses are a hot topic of conversation for women in the menopausal transition. So many women fear that the decrease in memory retention is a sign of early-onset dementia or an indicator of developing Alzheimer's disease later on in their lives. However, experiencing occasional lapses are not always an indicator of these kinds of medical conditions.
It's essential for women to remember that there are many factors that can cause lapses in memory. Sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalances, even specific mental health issues like heightened anxiety or depression can impact memory. Identifying the most probable factors of memory lapses is key to understanding how to combat it better.
How can you decrease the likelihood of memory loss during menopause?
Memory loss is affected by a variety of factors, which means that there are a variety of methods that women can use to help decrease it. Diet and exercise are often vital in promoting brain and body health, but the inclusion of puzzles, mind teasers, and other cognitive-based activities can help keep the mind active and sharp.
Puzzles and Mind Games
The most effective way to keep the mind agile and memory retention high is to engage in puzzles and other mind games. The human brain recognizes patterns instinctively. Puzzles, word searches, and other pattern-oriented activities help keep the brain active by aiding the brain to recognize and memorize the patterns that the eyes interpret. By engaging in activities that require the mind to store information in short-term memory, it can actually increase long-term memory health.
Puzzles are not the only kinds of activities you can do to stimulate brain health. Hobbies that involve memorization can also help keep the mind active. Crocheting, knitting, sewing, or any repetitive patterned activities can help you decrease memory lapses and keep the mind healthy.
Diet and Exercise
A healthy diet and exercise routine can help with a variety of health-related issues. It can improve weight loss goals, blood pressure, heart disease, lethargy, insomnia, and even mental health. While a healthy diet may promote overall health to the body, exercise is indeed the more influential factor of the two. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain, and because of this, it decreases the chance of the brain developing memory loss and other memory-related illnesses.
Additionally, since exercise reduces stress, it can help decrease memory lapses. Blocks in the retrieval of information can often be caused by stress, especially in women. By releasing endorphins into the brain and bloodstream, exercise can help reduce stress, which in turn reduces memory blocks. Menopausal women are encouraged to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, which works out to roughly 30 minutes of exercise every day.
Medications and Treatments
For some women, their issues with memory stem from chemical imbalances in the brain. Whether these imbalances are inherited or not, sometimes, the only way to combat these imbalances are through medication and other treatments. If there is a history of early-onset dementia or Alzheimer's in your family, be sure to speak to a general care provider about those concerns. Talk to a general care provider about what methods might be best to use to help alleviate memory loss symptoms.
Memory loss during menopause does not have to be a battle, and it certainly does not need to warrant concern about developing memory-related illnesses like early-onset dementia or Alzheimer's. Remember that there are a variety of ways to combat memory loss and memory lapses. Speaking to a general care provider can help you identify the symptoms that you're experiencing and determine the best forms of treatment to deal with it.
To gain a better understanding of how menopause affects memory and other aspects of the brain, the following research studies can provide you with some insight on the subject. The National Center for Biotechnology Information database has a variety of published, credible sources of information available to the public.