One of the most frustrating things about menopause is the brain glitch of forgetfulness, fuzzy-headedness, wobbly concentration, or not being able to find the simple word you are searching for. It’s unnerving to misplace the name of a woman you’ve shared an office with for ten years.
For some women, these “brain farts” are more troublesome than hot flashes or night sweats. What’s going on anyway? One theory points to fluctuating levels of the hormone estrogen as the culprit.
The Primary Suspect
Neurotransmitters make it possible for different parts of our gray matter to communicate and coordinate, and estrogen stimulates neurotransmitters. Estrogen also increases blood flow so our brain gets plenty of oxygen for clear thinking. If your body starts producing less estrogen during menopause, then brain communication, and blood flow might suffer some blips.
Estrogen has not been convicted of creating blank moments though, because it does not have a regular role in memory function, and ERT (estrogen replacement therapy) does not restore mental sharpness in menopausal women.
It could be that the whole ball of menopausal wax, being highly stressful on women’s bodies, is to blame; many ladies experience heightened tension, problems sleeping, and depressive symptoms. Menopause may be like taking a final exam after staying up for two nights studying on No-doze and chips.
What To Do
Exercise your synapses with mental push-ups and stimulating activities. Travel is a fun way to engage with the world. You might consider taking an interesting class, learn a new craft, work crossword puzzles, or wrestle with brain teasers.
Listen to classical music, or any music that relaxes you. Go to the theater, sign up for yoga or dance instruction, or read interesting but challenging books.
Good nutrition is always important. When the body is going through the throes of menopause, it is doubly important. Chow down on fresh fruits and vegetables (including dark leafy greens). Soy products, fish, beans, and blueberries are considered to be thought sharpeners. If you dislike fish, try flaxseed oil. Avoid or reduce alcohol intake and lay off the junk cuisine.
Getting at least eight hours of sleep helps everyone think more clearly. Try going to bed and rising at the same time each evening and morning, even on weekends. Soft, non-rhythmic music helps some people fall asleep, or try gentle stretching exercises before crawling under the covers. It’s also best to have the bedroom as dark as possible.
Chill Out: Be Active
Stress releases another hormone into the body, cortisol, which messes with our memory storage. Yoga, Tai chi, and mindfulness meditation are top notch stress reducers.
Swim, walk, run, hula-hoop, or shoot some hoops. Clean out the garage, garden, vacuum, wash the car, or organize a closet. Whatever floats your chill-out boat will help you remember . . . ah . . . now what’s that word?
There is a wealth of valuable information about menopause at HEALTHLINE.com.
Is menopause preventing you from taking care of business?
There is affordable, compassionate and collaborative gynecological and mental health care at CHICAGO WOMEN’S HEALTH CENTER, 3435 N Sheffield Ave., Chicago
Open daily, 9AM – 4PM, by appointment, (773) 935-6126