It's common for women approaching menopause to experience episodes of short-term memory loss known as “brain fogs.” Caused by changes in hormone levels that interfere with the functions of various parts of the brain, brain fogs involve difficulties when it comes to concentration, absorbing new information, and adapting to changes in routine. While hormonal imbalances may be primarily responsible for memory issues during menopause, certain lifestyle habits might make them worse. Keep reading to discover which habits may be triggering or intensifying your menopausal brain fogs.
Alcohol intake often causes short-term memory loss when it is consumed at a faster rate than the body can metabolize it (i.e., binge drinking). Intoxication affects the part of the brain that forms new memories so, once sober, a binge drinker may not be able to recall sections of events that occurred during intoxication.
Alcoholics and those who regularly drink heavily are likely to experience memory problems in the long term, as alcohol inhibits the function of the hippocampus and frontal lobes. This memory loss can be intensified by malnutrition derived from alcohol abuse. Alcoholics also have increased susceptibility to memory-impairing diseases, such as hepatic encephalopathy and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Read more on alcohol and memory loss.
Not Sleeping Enough
The body needs seven to eight hours of restful sleep every night to ensure its successful functioning during the day. Getting less sleep on a regular basis could lead to fatigue, making it difficult to concentrate and absorb information in the first place, thus exacerbating memory issues.
Stress is a significant contributor to memory issues. A lifestyle packed with activities and pressure with little time set aside for relaxation is likely to cause distractions and make concentrating difficult. Think of your memory as a muscle; like other muscles in the body, it will not function at its best if it is overworked. Prolonged stress can also lead to other memory-affecting issues, such as fatigue or depression.
Lack of Exercise
Research has shown that regular participation in aerobic exercise is likely to enhance memory. Working out at a moderate level for around 30 minutes every day increases blood circulation to the brain and enhances concentration, fitness, and general well-being.
Lack of Stimulation
Memory is characterized by various processes in the brain known as the cognitive functions. These can be strengthened with regular stimulation. Making a habit of doing regular brain-stimulating activities could go a long way in improving memory over time. Reading, word puzzles, card games, or brain-training applications are all ways of doing this.
Dealing with memory loss during menopause can be hard, as brain fogs can make a woman feel as though she is losing some degree of her intelligence or personality. It's reassuring to know that there are adjustments that can be made to improve memory. In the meantime, prevent memory loss from compromising your productivity at work or relationships with others by taking notes when you retrieve information and asking for information to be repeated to help you absorb it.
- Colcombe, S.J. et al. (2006). Aerobic exercise training increases brain volume in aging humans. The journals of gerontology, 61(11), 1166-1170. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17167157
- Harvard Health Publications. (2014). Dealing with the symptoms of menopause. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Dealing_with_the_symptoms_of_menopause.htm
- National Institute on Aging. (2014). Cognitive training shows staying power. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/newsroom/2014/01/cognitive-training-shows-staying-power
- Office on Women's Health. (2010). Healthy aging. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from http://womenshealth.gov/aging/mental-health/aging-brain.html
- University of Rochester Medical Center. (2012). "Brain fog" of Menopause Confirmed. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/index.cfm?id=3436
- Weber, M. & Mapstone, M. (2009). Memory complaints and memory performance in the menopausal transition. Menopause, 16(4), 694-700. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318196a0c9
- Weber, M.T. et al. (2012). Reconciling subjective memory complaints with objective memory performance in the menopausal transition. Menopause, 19(7), 735-741. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e318241fd22
- White, A.M. (2004). What Happened? Alcohol, Memory Blackouts, and the Brain. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm