Do you walk into a room and forget why? Or struggle to find the right word for something in the middle of a conversation? If you are a woman over 40 and answered yes to either of these questions, know you are not alone.
Memory issues are a normal part of perimenopause – the time and transition into menopause. Memory problems and “brain fog” are very common and happen because your body is making less estrogen. The good news is that it is usually temporary. 60% of women say they have some kind of brain fog or memory issues during perimenopause.
Estrogen Levels and Your Brain
As you age, both chemical and physical changes in the brain make it harder to learn new things, retain information, and remember seemingly normal things like a grocery list or “to-do” list.
Estrogen is a major chemical hormone that is produced by your body. During perimenopause, your ovaries stop working like they used to. Due to a lack of activity and production of eggs, your body responds by reducing the amount of estrogen it produces because the chemical is no longer needed for reproduction.
When estrogen levels decrease, estrogen does not participate in normal brain function as it once had. The lack of estrogen causes lapses in brain function and causes short-term memory loss. The decrease in estrogen is responsible for other symptoms of menopause like anxiety, hot flashes, and poor sleep habits.
Throughout perimenopause, estrogen levels vary a lot – which means this progression is gradual and takes time. Most women do not even experience severe brain fog until the transition to menopause.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Memory
There are a few things you can do to promote a healthy brain and memory function during perimenopause and menopause:
- Good Sleep Habits. Loss of sleep can lead to depression or anxiety. Have a good bedtime routine to encourage a healthy night’s sleep and rest for your body. Keep your bedroom cool, wear moisture-wicking pajamas, avoid caffeine before bed, do calming yoga or meditation, and adopt a regular bedtime routine.
- Physical Exercise. Exercising stimulates the brain in ways that help memory and how information is processed. It is recommended to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week.
- Healthy Diet. What you eat and drink is very important to your brain and its function. Limit foods that are fried, battered, or sugary sweet since they are high in trans fats and saturated fats. Eat a diet full of fruits and veggies, lean proteins, high in nutrients and vitamins, and use ingredients that are raw, not processed.
- Memory Boosters. Games, crossword puzzles, sudoku puzzles, reading, writing, or playing an instrument exercise your mind and keep them sharp and highly functional. This challenges your brain in healthy ways and prevent cognitive difficulties.