Tuesday, January 25

Menopausal brain: the inability to think clearly is not “all on your mind” | Menopause


IIf you are a woman in her 40s to 50s, you may have found yourself standing in a room sometimes wondering why the hell you are there, or you have forgotten the names of people you know well, or you have started a sentence and forgotten what was that. you needed to say.

Many women worry that these are the first signs of dementia. But if these experiences coincide with changes in your hormone levels and perhaps a few (or many) hot flashes, they are much more likely to be signs of menopause than the onset of dementia.

The menopausal brain is not “all in your mind.” The physical and emotional symptoms related to changes in your hormone levels are very real and can be debilitating.

Menopause usually coincides with other important life events, such as the departure of adult children from the home, the arrival of grandchildren, the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease, the aging of parents that require care , planning the transition to retirement or, conversely, having time. to take your career to a higher level. Therefore, any symptoms related to menopause, including the effects on brain function, must be viewed in the context of everything else that is happening in your life.

Hormone-related brain fog

There is much speculation as to why some women suffer more from cerebral menopause than others. It may be related to estrogen levels or the interaction between hormone levels and neurotransmitters in the brain of individuals. Lifelong brain health habits (intellectual activity or physical exercise) are also suggested to provide some protection for brain function.

In perimenopause and early menopause, women describe changes in their ability to think clearly, make decisions, and function well mentally. Some describe this as “brain fog”. They may have difficulty assimilating and making use of new information.

We now know that this form of brain fog affects around two-thirds of menopausal and perimenopausal women. The cause is related to the effects of changes in hormone levels in the female brain. The first hormonal level to drop is usually progesterone, and this can be linked to irritability, mood swings, and mental confusion. The drop in progesterone can also cause sleep disturbances. The sleep disturbance itself can affect the brain’s ability to function optimally.

Drops in estrogen levels cause the well-known symptoms of menopause, which include hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, mental confusion, and decreased energy. All of these things can further contribute to hormone-related brain fog.

There is an association between loss of verbal memory capacity (being “speechless”) and the severity of hot flashes. One study showed that women who experienced the most hot flashes in one day also had the worst scores on verbal memory performance. However, even if there are no other symptoms of menopause, memory can be affected by declining hormone levels.

Many of my patients are greatly relieved when I tell them that their problems with brain function are likely caused by the state of their hormones, and that it is likely temporary and not related to an increased risk of dementia or kidney disease. Alzheimer’s.

A study from the University of Rochester in New York examined 117 middle-aged women and performed a series of neuropsychological tests for cognition.

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Meditation, tai chi, yoga, and breathing techniques can help with anxiety, irritability, and trouble sleeping. Photograph: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

Researchers evaluated menopausal symptoms and measured their hormone levels, finding that decreases in attention / working memory, verbal learning, verbal memory, and fine motor speed may be more apparent in the first year after the last period. menstrual.

It has been shown that women who had a hysterectomy and had their ovaries surgically removed at an earlier age were more prone to the effects on the brain of the absence of hormones produced by the ovaries. Women who had their uterus and ovaries removed and then took hormone replacement therapy had a slower rate of cognitive decline than women who did not take hormones.

You should consider all the other problems related to menopause that could contribute to mental confusion. Women going through the changes related to menopause experience sleep disturbances, hot flashes and night sweats, and a depressed mood, all of which can contribute to difficulties with thinking and memory.

The brain’s first year of menopause is likely to be the worst, and memory and learning ability generally return to normal after the menopausal process is complete.

What can you do about the menopausal brain?

While you wait for menopause to run its course, there are things you can do to control the situation. Keep in mind that menopause is also a time to reflect on all of your health habits and make adjustments that will lead to a healthier middle and old age.

  • General health check See your GP to make sure your symptoms are related to menopause and not another cause. Check your blood pressure regularly. Hypertension (high blood pressure) can cause hot flashes and can also increase the risk of cognitive decline, vascular dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Women with very high blood pressure have been shown to have a 30% increased risk of developing cognitive decline.

  • Exercise Exercise is essential for the prevention of chronic diseases and is also helpful in controlling irritability, helping you sleep and maintain a healthy weight, strong bones and muscles. Aerobic exercise and resistance (or strength) training also help your brain function. Just as all structures in the body need good blood flow to function and repair, the brain also requires good blood flow to maintain optimal function.

  • Exercise your mind Make lists to help you stay organized. Test your mind every day with brain stimuli like crossword puzzles, reading, studying something new, or learning a new language or a musical instrument. Organize regular social interactions too.

  • To sleep Disturbed sleep or lack of quality sleep impairs normal brain function and contributes to mental confusion. Give yourself time to sleep. Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and your bedroom is quiet and dark. Do not store electronic devices that emit light or make noise in your bedroom.

  • Nutrition Take care of your diet. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits and other whole, unprocessed foods. Avoid eating animal fats and trans fats.

  • Diet drinks Compared to people who say they don’t drink diet drinks, people who drink at least one a day have been shown to have three times more strokes and are three times more likely to develop dementia. Avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and switch to water to quench your thirst.

  • Alcohol Many women find that when they drink alcohol around menopause, hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia get worse. Alcohol also increases body weight and increases blood pressure.

  • Healthy weight Get and maintain your ideal weight. A 2013 study showed that memory improved in overweight postmenopausal women after losing weight on a diet.

  • Of smoking Smoking affects brain blood flow, which has an adverse effect on brain function. Smoking can also make menopausal hot flashes worse and increases the risk of heart and blood vessel disease and some cancers.

  • Meditation / mindfulness Relaxation practices such as meditation, tai chi, yoga, and breathing techniques can help with anxiety, irritability, and trouble sleeping.

  • Medication review As you get older, you are more likely to be prescribed medications for chronic conditions. Some of these (sleeping pills, high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and statins) can affect memory and brain function. If you notice that your brain function has worsened after starting one of these medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist to review the medication you are taking.

  • Herbs and supplements Some of the herbs and supplements we use to treat menopausal hot flashes and mood swings can also help brain fog and memory problems. You will need the advice of a healthcare professional if you are exploring this option. Some common examples include black cohosh, red clover, ginkgo biloba, Bacopa monnieri, and dong quai. Make sure you have the right vitamins B6 and B12 to support cognitive function during menopause and beyond.

Hormone therapy for menopause MHT (also known as hormone replacement therapy or HRT) refers to a variety of treatments that can reduce the symptoms of menopause. MHT can be taken in pill form, applied as patches, or injected as an implant. If vaginal dryness is the main problem, estrogen can be used topically in the form of a cream. THM is not routinely recommended for the menopausal brain, and certainly not as an initial response. There is no strong evidence that hormone therapy benefits brain function around menopause, and it is important to consider both the risks and benefits. The decision really depends on how severely cognitive problems and other symptoms of menopause are affecting your quality of life and job performance, and what else you’ve tried. Hormone therapy tends to be most helpful for brain function in the perimenopausal stage.

This is an edited excerpt from How to Keep Your Brain Young by Kerryn Phelps AM, Pan Macmillan, Available Now

This article first appeared on Mag tonic


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