Brain fog and menopause
One of the most troubling symptoms of menopause is brain fog when you struggle to remember a word mid-sentence, forget names, find it hard to focus or put your thoughts into words. It’s particularly difficult at work and partly to blame for up to a quarter of women considering leaving their job. It can be so dramatic that many women are fearful they have dementia.
So, what is brain fog? It’s an umbrella term that includes forgetfulness, poor concentration, trouble finding words and confusion. 60% of women experience this, particularly during perimenopause which usually starts in our 40s way before you even think of being menopausal.
What is the cause? We have oestrogen receptors all over our body and as oestrogen levels fluctuate and dip, it causes changes in the brain. Other brain chemicals, like serotonin, can also reduce and this affect our mood. Add in sleepless night and the ageing process and you have a perfect storm for brain fog.
What can you do about it? Here’s our top tips to help you cope with brain fog during perimenopause, menopause and beyond:
• Move more – Aerobic exercise has been linked to significant increase in brain volume and cognitive function and has an anti-inflammatory effect that promotes brain health
• Make lists of priorities for the following day so you don’t wake up in the night trying to remember
• Reduce multi-tasking – focus on the task in hand and avoid trying to do and remember too many things at the same time (that includes trying to reply to emails when you’re eating lunch)!
• Stay hydrated – this is vital for the brain to function properly, keep a jug of water nearby so it’s visible and reminds you to take sips throughout the day
• Sleep well – often, it’s lack of sleep that causes ‘cotton wool head.’ It’s easier said than done when you are waking with night sweats, but there are lots of things you can do to help promote restful sleep
• Regulate your blood sugar – avoid eating that bar of chocolate as your blood sugar levels will spike then plummet and your brain needs a steady supply of glucose to function
• Own up – rather than struggle, get flustered & panic, say sorry I just can’t recall that name right now. This is why your workplace needs to have a culture of being open and able to talk about menopause without embarrassment
• Boost your Vitamin B – especially B12. Consider taking a supplement if you are vegan but check with your pharmacist if you are taking any other medications. Food sources include meat, eggs, whole grains such as brown rice and barley, sunflower seeds, broccoli and spinach
• When to see your doctor – if your brain fog is affecting your ability to function then don’t hesitate to get medical advice as this can also be a sign of depression
And the good news is, it won’t last: A four year research study of 2,600 women found memory improved again post-menopause.