Our culture is so focused on youth that just the thought of menopause makes some women feel old. The fact that this natural process of aging affects primarily women is also very stressful for many, as they wonder how the men in their lives will react to this change of life. However, despite thoughts of night sweats, lowered libido and the fact that you can no longer conceive children; many women actually fear the thought of memory loss more than any of the symptoms because they may think they have the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which is rarely the case. It has been found through numerous studies that women going through menopause are 95% more likely to experience memory lapses than those who have not reached menopause yet.
About Memory Lapses
Memory lapses generally experienced by menopausal women affect the short-term memory, meaning that only recent events are forgotten, while old events that may have happened years ago are still remembered in detail. Why do memory lapses occur during menopause and what can be done about it?
Symptoms of Memory Lapses
- Intense feelings of heat in the face
- Difficulty concentrating
- Brain fog
- Being unable to solve simple work or household problems
- Scrambling simple words
- Forgetfulness of a recent event, but remember it shortly thereafter
It first must be recognized that people of any gender and any age can have what’s known as a temporary brain freeze. This can be brought on by stress or information overload. This could be due to having so many pressing matters on your mind that recent events or known facts escape your memory. However during menopause, the memory lapses may be accompanied by the inability to concentrate and the ability to clearly recall what was forgotten earlier. These symptoms are due to the imbalance or change in hormones during this time of a woman’s life.
Types of Memory
There are also many different types of memory loss and these are important to recognize for optimal health during menopause. The most common types of memory that are affected in women in menopause are short-term and long-term. Short-term memory provides a small storage space for daily tasks and lists. Misplaced car keys, forgotten birthdays and forgetting why you entered a room are common types of memory lapses, commonly associated with low levels of estrogen and high stress levels. Long-term memory is anything you can remember that happened more than a few minutes ago and can last as little as a few days or as long as decades. Along with short-term and long-term memory, these are additional types of memory that can portray a better idea of the many different functions that memory can serve.
- Declarative memory – remembering words and their meaning as well as facts
- Procedural memory – recollection on how to do things that require motor skills
- Recent memory - understanding and recalling daily events
- Sensory memory - recalling sights, smells and sound
Causes of Memory Loss
Fluctuating hormones are the main reason that menopausal women experience these memory lapses. In the case of memory lapses, estrogen plays a vital role. It has a direct effect on the functions of the brain and it heavily influences one’s mood, language skills, attention and most importantly, one’s memory. Various studies have shown that estrogen has a direct correlation to the ability to remember words and names. So when a menopausal woman’s estrogen levels drop, her memory often slows down.
Although decreases in hormones such as estrogen are the most common cause of memory lapses for women going through menopause, there are other risk factors that could have an affect on the likelihood of experiencing this frustrating symptom. Many believe that practicing a healthy way of living can help circumvent many of these memory lapses. It’s also been shown that the opposite is true. Those who practice unhealthy lifestyles can become more prone to memory loss. For instance, women who are addicted to prescription drugs and/or even over the counter drugs may be more prone to memory lapses. Women who drink alcohol regularly and have high risk factors such as stressful careers and lack of sleep will also experience memory lapses more often. Here are some of the many factors that play a part in memory lapses besides hormones:
- Lack of sleep – When the body hasn’t received the 7-8 recommended hours of sleep, the brain cannot process thoughts properly. Your brain becomes slower and your actions and thinking can become impaired.
- Stress - Massive workloads and stress can cause memory lapses because your brain goes into information overload, limiting the amount of information that you can retain.
- Poor diets – With insufficient nutrients and vitamin deficiencies, cells send false information along the nerve pathways and can damage the thinking process and ability to process information.
- Alcohol – Alcohol interferes with the ability to form new long-term memories. As the amount of alcohol consumed increases, so does the magnitude of memory lapses. When one participates in binge drinking, it can produce a partial or complete blackout, which means they can’t process or recall information while in the drunken state. Many times, the person can wake up not knowing what they did the night before.
- Drugs – Sleeping pills, tranquilizers, drugs and pain killers are widely known to create memory lapses.
When to see a Doctor
If a woman does all she can and still does not seem to get occasional relief from lapses in memory and/or memory fog in general, it may be wise to consult a physician right away. This is because loss of memory can also be associated with other serious diseases, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes or cancer that should not be overlooked as a woman advances in age. Once your doctor has ruled out these diseases, they can proceed to treat your memory loss as a normal symptom of menopause with treatments that are minimally invasive.
Managing Your Memory Lapses
Recent research has also been shown that women who try to get more exercise and eat healthy food as their time for menopause nears are less likely to have memory loss that lasts very long. As mentioned, this is all a natural part of the process and is
Many women look for naturopaths or holistic doctors so that alternative therapies outside of HRT can be recommended during menopause. Preliminary studies and long range studies show that many natural remedies can sooth symptoms of menopause including memory loss. Consult a naturopath to find out what herbs or whole foods would work best in your given situation. No matter what remedy a woman chooses to handle her memory loss during menopause; she should be met with support and empathy by family and friends. Know that this is a time of life that can be celebrated instead of dreaded and with the addition of a heightened sense of humor; you can get through this change of life with dignity in tact; like so many women before you.
Daily Lifestyle Changes
- De-stress your life – Try to rid yourself of all the things that stress you out and could lead to memory loss. Take time for yourself, get organized, set boundaries, stay positive, work in a workplace that you love and surround yourself with positive family and friends.
- Exercise – Regular physical exercise can help prevent memory lapses. Swimming and jogging are wonderful aerobic exercises that can have a positive effect on one’s memory.
- Routine - Adopting a daily routine is beneficial to condition the brain on a regular basis.
- Stress Reduction and Relaxation – Relaxation exercises, breathing exercises, massage, hypnosis, and yoga and visualization techniques are all wonderful ways to help improve your memory during menopause.
What you eat becomes a part of your cellular makeup. Proper fats and amino acid metabolism are essential to create the proper materials to make cell membranes. When one’s body senses improper cellular membrane formation, mixed signals are sent along the nerve pathways, resulting in faulty nerve function and brain information transition. To avoid this, please do the following:
- Increase your omega-3 acids; which you can find in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Adding more garlic to your diet is beneficial because it is a brain cell protector that may benefit age-related memory loss.
- Reducing your coffee intake, alcohol, and even sugar can help fight memory lapses.
- Adding more blueberries, apples, spinach, nuts, onions, broccoli, beets, cherries, eggplant and rosemary.
Memory Lapses Treatment
- Vitamins – There are also vitamin supplements that can be introduced into your daily routine that can help a great deal. Vitamin B Complex needed for proper brain function. Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids improves circulation. Vitamin D and Vitamin E boosts your memory. Multivitamin and Mineral Complex removes free radicals and provides all necessary nutrients. L-Tyrosine helps improve learning, memory and awareness and is known to have mood enhancing affects.
- Alternative Medicine – Many doctors are now into treating patients holistically or the mind, body and spirit as a unit. Chinese medicine (acupuncture and herbology) has been a long standing treatment for memory lapses around the world. Acupuncture is known to be an effective tool in addressing problems with memory because it works with the energy force in the body and regulates the flow of the energy.
- Black Cohosh One of the most commonly used herbal remedies is Black Cohosh, a perennial plant that is a member of the buttercup family. It provides powerful phytoestrogens that mimic the hormone’s effects and bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and other parts of the body, alleviating hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also known to relieve hot flashes efficiently and is a good alternative to HRT. It is also used effectively for treating PMS, arthritis and lowering blood pressure. Red Clover, Dong Quai, Ginseng, Kava and evening primrose oil can be used as natural therapies, although there are some risks involved. Herbal supplements are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs and the amount of the herbal product, quality and safety may vary between brands.
- Herbal Remedies – Zinc plus Copper helps remove toxins from the brain and body. Copper is needed to work with zinc in very small doses. Acetylcholine helps prevent memory loss in adults. DMAE helps with learning and retention, but it not recommended using on a daily basis. Boron improves brain and memory function. Lecithin improves memory. Ginkgo increases blood flow to the brain, thus enhancing memory. There are two known types of herbs that affect hormone instability, the phytoestrogenic and non-estrogenic herbs. Phytoestrogenic herbs, such as Black Cohosh, have estrogenic plant content contained in them. At first, these herbs can be beneficial to your symptoms, but can lower your body’s ability to produce estrogen on it’s own over time. Non-estrogenic herbs don’t contain estrogen. They work by stimulating your brain’s production process in order to make the hormones itself. Herbs, like Macafem, can be the safest way to treat memory lapses as the body makes what is needed to correct this problem on its very own.
- Hormone Replacement Therapy – For more severe cases of memory lapses, women may seek surgical or pharmaceutical treatments, although it is important to keep in mind that there are many studies showing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases a woman’s risk of elevated blood pressure, endometrial and breast cancers, strokes, blood clots and gallbladder disease. It is advised to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional regarding the negative side effects before you begin treatment.