Steps That Menopausal Women Can Take to Maintain Their Brains
Sometimes my memory is great; other times, it feels like my brain has as many holes as a piece of Swiss cheese. And upon reaching middle age and entering perimenopause, I notice these lapses come and go at difference times. All of this causes me to ask the question: “Are these periodic memory gaps a sign of Alzheimer’s disease or something else? “
In their book, The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause,” Barbara Seaman and Laura Eldridge do a great job of addressing the concern that many middle-age women have. “For the majority of women in their fifties and sixties, Alzheimer’s isn’t their problem,” the duo write.
So what could be the cause? Potentially it could be the use of certain pharmaceuticals. “The list of drugs that can cause your brain to falter include antidepressants and antianxiety drugs prominently among them,” Seaman and Eldridge report. They also suggest that various other medications, including cholesterol and diabetes medications, cough medicines, antihistamines, sedatives, beta-blockers, chemotherapy drugs, motion-sickness pills, steroids, and ulcer medications can be to blame. That helps explain why my brain tends to be the most fuzzy when my allergies are active and I’m taking antihistamines. And it also explains why a friend, who has been fighting cancer, has credited her moments of faulty memory to “Chemo Brain.”
However, for many of us, taking these drugs is part of our daily lives.“We don’t tell you this so that you will throw away all your drugs but rather so that if you are having memory problems and using medication to help you sleep, you may want to have a conversation with your doctor about whether this could be the cause,” Seaman and Eldridge suggest.
Head injuries also can cause some level of brain damage. “A mild concussion can be sustained without a loss of consciousness, and the effects of such a hit might not be evident for weeks or months to come,” the authors note. Additionally, the knocks that your head can take when you fall off a bike (or a horse) can also impair memory. Therefore, it’s important to wear a properly fitting helmet.
Besides protecting your head, what else can you do to be proactive in maintaining your memory? Increasingly, researchers believe that environment plays a key role in staving off Alzheimer’s as we age. For instance, education seems to provide a long-term cognitive advantage in helping people avoid Alzheimer’s. “Getting more education during your younger years also seems to put you at a long-term cognitive advantage, but if you think you missed out in your early life, continuing to educate yourself is one of your best natural defenses against both age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s,” Seaman and Eldridge wrote.
Their advice to middle-aged women is to stay mentally engaged: “Menopause is a great moment to start learning things you have always wanted to try: take up a new language, learn to play an instrument, anything that is mostly fun and sometimes frustrating but in the end helps you to use your brain in ways that you haven’t before.”