Make Brain Health a Priority During Menopause

Patient Expert

Going through menopause can change your perspective on things. For instance, what if you find that you are having trouble mentally calculating the restaurant tip, even though you majored in math in college? Yes, brain fog does occur in some women as they go through the menopausal transition. While this turns out to be a natural state, it also should signal the importance of your brain health, which is something you may have taken for granted when you were younger.

Potential Memory Issues Ahead

The menopause transition is a great time to make an important commitment to a brain-healthy lifestyle. That’s because researchers are finding that seemingly healthy women who are 65 years of age have a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease during their lifetime. In comparison, men have a 1 in 11 chance.

The Alzheimer’s Association featured three studies at its international conference this summer that have implications for older women. One recent study found that older women who had mild cognitive impairment experienced mental decline twice as fast as men. A second study found that women tend to have more beta-amyloid (a sticky protein that is seen in brains that have Alzheimer’s disease), even if they were healthy participants. A third study found that older women, in general, experienced faster cognitive decline than older men following surgery during which they are put under general anesthesia.

Brain Fog during Menopause is Real

As I noted in a 2012 post, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago found that the brain fog that women feel while going through the menopausal transition is real. Many of the study’s participants had difficulty learning new information and manipulating it in their heads; they also had difficulty concentrating for long periods of time. However, the study also found that the participants were not having problems with the type of memory in which they needed to recall a piece of information, such as a grocery item. The researchers’ analysis also suggested that participants who said they experienced memory issues also reported symptoms of depression, anxiety and sleep issues – all of which wreak havoc on brain health.

Making Healthy Changes Now

Therefore, if you are going through menopause and find that you are experiencing brain fog, use it as a sign to incorporate the following brain-healthy activities into your daily life:

  • Eat a diet rich in produce, seafood, grains and lean protein, such as the DASH diet or the Mediterranean diet.
  • Start a regular exercise regimen.
  • Lower your stress level.
  • Commit to a good night’s sleep.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Continue to learn something new.
  • Be socially active.

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Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Neergaard, L. (2015). Study: Memory woes may hit women harder than men. Houston Chronicle.

University of Rochester Medical Center. (2012). ‘Brain Fog’ of Menopause Confirmed.