What are the symptoms of menopause?
The menopause usually affects women aged around 45-55. But you may feel signs of the perimenopause (the phase before the menopause) several years before this. Menopause affects everyone differently. Some women are troubled most by hot flushes, whereas others find a low sex drive or increased anxiety affects them more. Below are some of the other menopausal symptoms you might have:
- irregular periods
- night sweats
- mood changes
- issues sleeping
- vaginal dryness
Menopausal memory loss
The type of memory loss linked to the menopause is sometimes described as brain fog. You might struggle to focus properly at work or feel unable to concentrate on the plot of a film. You could also find it hard to remember peoples’ names, or simply lose your keys more often. This type of memory loss can happen both during the perimenopause phase and the menopause itself.
Why does menopause cause memory loss?
During the menopause your oestrogen levels decline. Oestrogen is a female sex hormone that affects many parts of your body. So, when your body makes less oestrogen, you can have lots of different symptoms. Having less oestrogen can also affect how your brain functions. This is because oestrogen controls how much fuel your neurons (special brain cells) get.
Neurons are involved in memory making and brain communication, so if these cells don’t get enough fuel they might not work as well. On top of these hormonal changes, you may find you don’t sleep as well during the menopause because of your night sweats and other symptoms. This may also affect your memory and concentration levels.
The good news is that many women find their symptoms of memory loss improve after the menopause, once their hormone levels stop changing so much.
What can I do about menopausal memory loss?
It you are having issues with your memory it is a good idea to see your doctor to rule out any other conditions. If they think that the menopause could be the cause, then there are lots you can do to try to improve your concentration and memory. The following are some changes you can make.
Get more rest
Sleep loss can worsen your memory even if you aren’t having menopausal symptoms. So, it is important to take extra steps to sleep well at this stage of life. Keeping your bedroom cool with a fan nearby may help you with night sweats. Studies have also shown that regular yoga or relaxation can lessen symptoms of menopause, helping you to sleep better.
Your mind can benefit from a healthy diet as much as your body. Aim to include lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables such as berries and beetroot. Reducing alcohol can lessen menopausal symptoms too. It’s also important to eat plenty of wholegrains, and omega 3 fatty acids as these are part of the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet has been repeatedly shown to improve cognitive function in older adults.
Exercise your body and your brain
Moving your body helps to bring fresh blood and oxygen to your brain which can help you to feel alert. Try a mixture of cardio and resistance style exercises to keep you moving. Exercising your brain is also important as this can help you to overcome some of the symptoms of memory loss caused by the menopause. Consider learning a new language on a free app, reading more and spending time talking to friends and family.
Does Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) help with menopausal memory loss?
If menopausal memory loss is making your life hard, then HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) may be an option to consider. A doctor will be able to work out which dose and type is right for you – as everybody is different.
HRT can help to stabilise the hormonal changes you have at menopause, which can help you with symptoms of brain fog. HRT can also reduce the symptoms of menopause that can interfere with your sleep. This means you are more likely to get the rest you need for good concentration and memory.
In the past there was a lot of stigma and fear around the use of HRT. Now there is more awareness about its benefits. HRT has given many women more control over their menopausal symptoms. So don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor about HRT to see if it is suitable for you.