Menopause brain fog (and what you can do about it)
Menopause brain fog is real, and it’s more prevalent than you might think. But you can improve your brain fog symptoms.
If you are journeying through menopause and you find yourself experiencing memory loss or having trouble focusing, you aren’t alone. Two out of three women say that they regularly experience brain fog and forgetfulness in the years leading up to “the change,” and it’s yet another way that this major milestone in life can feel so intimidating and stressful.
But don’t let menopause brain fog overwhelm you. With the right understanding of when, how and why you experience menopause brain fog, you can take away some of the uncertainty surrounding these sometimes-alarming symptoms. And you can arm yourself with the knowledge you need to better manage menopause brain fog, boost your brain health, and take back a sense of control over your own mind and body.
We need to talk about menopause
Women are more vulnerable to stress, depression, anxiety, and feeling alone during menopause, reports the North American Menopause Society. This is often because this transitory phase of life can feel very lonely, and many women are embarrassed to talk about brain fog, memory loss, and other menopause symptoms they might be having.
Teri Hines, a school principal who started going through menopause in her mid-40s, told NPR that her experience felt "isolated and unmoored."
"It was such a fog over who I was, what I wanted, where I was going, what I was capable of accomplishing," said Hines. "I just could not find my footing."
TV presenter Davina McCall decided to face this problem head-on with her new Channel 4 documentary entitled Sex, Myths and the Menopause. McCall’s goal was to take away a lot of the stigma, isolation, and shame surrounding menopause, with The Telegraph's critics calling it an "excellent documentary" that has "lifted the lid on the appalling way menopausal women have been treated by society."
The truth is that as women, we will all embark on this journey sooner or later. When you do, you will join the ranks of millions of others who have gone through menopause, and learned to accept the ways their bodies and minds change.
But what if we did more than simply accept it? What if we learned to talk about it, share our own stories, be candid about our symptoms, fears, and concerns?
This openness about menopause can then create space for us to seek the right guidance, knowledge and support to help us to feel our best throughout the years-long journey through menopause.
And one prominent example is menopause brain fog.
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What is menopause brain fog?
Cognitive changes are one of the most widely reported symptoms of menopause. Women often use terms like "forgetfulness" or "concentration difficulties" to describe it, according to a study published in the Menopause journal.
Menopause brain fog and declines in memory have been reported across the board in middle-aged women, even if you take into account factors like health and lifestyle.
Specific symptoms often include:
increased difficulty with motor function
a harder time with verbal learning
trouble focusing or paying attention
hazy or foggy memory
Often, these specific cognitive symptoms also come with other mental health-related concerns, such as:
mood changes, including increased irritability
anxiety and depression
When does menopause brain fog start to happen?
The average age for British women to reach menopause is 51, notes the NHS. However, menopause brain fog actually starts to occur during perimenopause, which is the eight to 10 years leading up to menopause.
Most women in the UK may start to experience brain fog and mood changes in their early 40s.
What causes menopause brain fog?
The most commonly accepted theory is that it all boils down to estrogen. This hormone plays a critical role in a woman’s brain development and brain health, and it’s been shown to have neuroprotective benefits against brain cell damage and even DNA damage.
When you’re in perimenopause, your estrogen fluctuates wildly and will eventually drop to very low levels during actual menopause. This leads many researchers to conclude that changes in your hormones are to blame for menopause brain fog.
Yet that doesn’t paint a complete picture. For example, one study found that hormone replacement theory didn't improve cognition symptoms in post-menopausal women.
There may be a lifestyle component to this, as well.
During your 40s and 50s, it's not just your brain and body that's changing. It's also your life. You're often juggling more on your proverbial plate, including your career, your children taking exams, going through puberty, leaving home or starting families of their own, care for your own elderly parents, etc. This increased mental burden may contribute to menopause brain fog.
How to prevent, manage or reduce menopause brain fog
Take heart. Just because nearly all women of a certain age have bouts of menopause brain fog, you aren’t powerless. In a stage of life when you might feel out of control, take back your power with strategic changes to your diet, supplements, and daily habits to boost your cognition, clear away the brain fog, and restore your mental clarity.
Run from the problem (literally)
Regular physical activity, especially cardiovascular exercise, has been shown to help prevent, improve and manage all symptoms of menopause. This includes better mood, improved memory, and less brain fog.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that women who are perimenopausal, menopausal or post-menopausal aim for at least 30 minutes of cardio at least five days a week.
Get more sleep
Many women complain that they have trouble sleeping during menopause. Sleep is critical for your brain health, and lack of quality sleep may be a core factor in your menopause brain fog.
Strive for at least seven hours of sleep a night, and improve your sleep quality by:
Following a regular sleep schedule
Keeping your bedroom cool and dark
Talking to your doctor about any menopause symptoms that may be keeping you up at night, such as hot flashes
Avoiding caffeine and alcohol
Hang out with your friends
Researchers say that social connection may help to slow ageing and prevent memory problems and brain fog as you get older.
Invest in your friendships, your relationships, and your sense of community. Stay plugged into your interests, passions, hobbies, and the people around you.
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Take the right supplements
As your body transitions through menopause, your traditional women’s supplements may no longer cut it. For example, you’ll need far less iron than you did when you were younger.
Invest in a high-quality, premium braincare supplement instead.
With the Smart Supplement from Heights, you get the highest quality nutrients proven to reduce menopause brain fog and all in one convenient daily dose. The vitamins and minerals found in the Smart Supplement have also been shown to help with the mental health concerns that many women in menopause experience, such as anxiety and depression.
The above suggestions won’t stop menopause. Despite our best intentions, nothing can turn back the hands of time. However, these changes to your diet and your lifestyle can help you to better manage your brain health and avoid menopause brain fog.