Menopause and Memory – Unraveling the Impact on Cognitive Function
Impact of Menopause on Cognitive Function

Menopause and Memory – Unraveling the Impact on Cognitive Function

The Impact of Menopause on Cognitive Function and Memory.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you walk into a room and your mind goes blank? You struggle to recall why you entered the room in the first place, or you can’t quite grasp the name that’s on the tips of your tongue. Or perhaps you’ve had an important appointment slip your mind entirely?

Have you felt like your brain is playing tricks on you? Well, you are not alone! Research shows that up to 75% of women experience cognitive changes during menopause.

Yes, you read that right- 75%! It’s like your brain is going through a rollercoaster ride, and you’re left wondering what’s happening to your memory and focus.

Menopause is a major life transition that brings physical, emotional, and cognitive challenges. Studies have shown that the decline in estrogen levels during menopause can affect the brain’s neurotransmitters leading to menopause cognitive issues. It’s like a domino effect- hormonal changes lead to cognitive changes, which can impact daily life.

Declining estrogen levels during menopause are linked to cognitive decline and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in women.  Menopausal women also tend to have worse scores on tests of attention, working memory, and executive function compared to younger women.

While menopause-related cognitive changes are common, they can significantly impact quality of life. The good news is there are also ways to manage them, by taking steps to boost our brain power and staying sharp during this phase. So, let’s understand better the impact of menopause on cognitive function and memory and explore practical tips to manage these changes.

Memory Issues During Menopause

1. Memory Lapses

Forgetting recent events, learning new information, or recalling familiar words and names is a common cognitive change during menopause. You might find yourself struggling to remember where you placed your keys or forgetting appointments.

2. Short-term Memory

Menopause cognitive decline can affect short-term memory, making it harder to learn new information or follow instructions.

3. Long-term Memory

While long-term memory is less affected, menopause cognitive issues can still make it harder to recall memories from the past.

4. Working Memory

Menopause can significantly impact working memory which is responsible for holding and manipulating information. Women may experience difficulty concentrating, following instructions, and performing mental tasks. We may struggle to remember phone numbers, passwords, or appointments, and may find it hard to learn new skills or information.

Cognitive Changes During Menopause

1. Processing Speed

Menopause and cognitive changes can slow down your processing speed, making it harder to react quickly or make decisions.

2. Concentration

Difficulty concentrating and staying focused is a common menopause cognitive symptom.

3. Problem-solving

Menopause cognitive issues can make it harder to solve problems or think critically.

4. Multi-tasking

Menopause and cognitive decline can make it harder to manage complex tasks that require sustained attention and multitasking. Women may find it challenging to juggle work responsibilities, family demands, and other daily activities.

5. Attention

Menopause can affect a woman’s ability to maintain focus on tasks. The reduction in attention span is one of the common cognitive changes during menopause. Women may feel easily distracted or find it hard to stay engaged in activities that require prolonged concentration.

6. Mental Fog

Often described as “Brain Fog” this symptom includes feelings of confusion, lack of clarity and slow thinking. This can be particularly troubling and can significantly impact a woman’s productivity and overall well-being.

7. Executive Function

Menopause can affect executive functioning which includes skills like planning, organization, and time management. Women may experience difficulty prioritizing tasks, setting goals, and making decisions. We may also struggle with multitasking, flexibility, and adapting to change, making it harder to manage responsibilities and maintain independence.

8. Mood Changes

Depression, anxiety and mood swings can affect cognitive function and memory during menopause, making it difficult to think clearly and make decisions.

Other Impacts on Cognitive Changes During Menopause

1. Sleep Disturbances

Menopause often brings sleep disturbances such as insomnia or frequent waking. Poor sleep quality can worsen menopause cognitive issues, as adequate rest is crucial for memory consolidation and cognitive function.

CBT for Insomnia during Perimenopause and Menopause

2. Hormonal Changes

Estrogen plays a crucial role in various brain functions, including memory, mood regulation, and cognitive skills. During menopause decline in estrogen levels can directly impact cognitive function. Estrogen affects neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are essential for mood regulation and cognitive processes. The reduction in estrogen can lead to imbalances in these neurotransmitters, contributing to menopause cognitive issues such as forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating.

Boosting Memory and Cognitive Functions- Tips and Strategies

Navigating menopause can be very challenging, but there are many ways to manage its cognitive symptoms. By incorporating simple yet effective strategies into your daily routine, you can boost your memory and cognitive function.

Here are few practical tips:

  • Get Moving: Regular physical exercise improves blood flow to the brain, boosting cognitive function. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day. Activities like walking, swimming, or yoga are excellent choices. Try aerobic exercises like dancing, and cycling. Incorporate strength training with weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises. Practice flexibility exercises like yoga or stretching.

Regular Exercises

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Exercise During Menopause

  • Eat a Brain-healthy Diet: Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, walnuts), antioxidants (berries, leafy greens), and vitamins. Try and include fatty fish, berries, nuts and seeds, whole grains, avocados, eggs, turmeric, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and oranges in your diet. Incorporating these foods into your diet can help support brain health and mitigate some of the cognitive changes during menopause.

Read More: Mediterranean Diet For Managing Symptoms

  • Get Quality Sleep: Sleep is essential for memory consolidation and cognitive functioning. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night to help your brain function at its best. By establishing healthy sleep habits and addressing any underlying sleep issues, you can improve your overall well-being.
  • Social Connections: Engage in social activities and maintain strong relationships. Social interaction stimulates your brain and can help mitigate menopausal cognitive symptoms. Join clubs, volunteer, or join support groups. Connecting with others experiencing similar challenges can provide emotional support and practical advice. Sharing experiences and coping strategies can help you feel less alone and more empowered.

Social Connections

  • Manage Stress: High-level stress can worsen cognitive issues. Mindfulness and meditation can reduce stress and improve focus and memory. Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or spending time in nature. You can also try journaling or reading. Reducing stress can improve mental clarity and overall cognitive function.
  • Stay Organized: Writing things down and setting reminders can help manage forgetfulness and stay organized.
    • Use a planner, calendar, or app to keep track of appointments, tasks, and deadlines.
    • Break down large tasks into smaller manageable chunks.
    • Create a daily routine or schedule to stay on track.
    • Use reminders, alarms, and notifications to stay on top of tasks.
  • Exercise your Brain: Engage in cognitive activities that challenge your brain. By regularly engaging in these activities, you can challenge your brain and build cognitive reserve, which in turn will help in reducing menopausal cognitive symptoms.
    • Try a new hobby or activity that challenges your mind like painting, gardening, cooking, or learning a new instrument.
    • Engage in strategic games like chess, scrabble, sudoku, or crosswords.
    • Practice problem-solving with puzzles, brain teasers, or logic games.

Problem Solving Puzzle Games

    • Learn a new language.
    • Memory Games: Find games like memory match, memory matrix, or apps that help you boost your memory and skills. Engage in simple exercises such as remembering phone numbers, remembering a list of items, recalling a story, etc.
    • Repeat and Recall Exercise: Repeat a list of words or numbers, then try to recall them from memory.
    • Mental Math: calculate math problems in your head, like multiplying or dividing numbers.
    • Word Association Exercise: Write down a word and then come up with as many related words as possible (e.g., “Dog”- bone, pet, fur, paw, etc.). Create a word chain, where each word starts with the last letter of the previous word.
    • Pattern Recognition Exercise: Complete number sequences, identify shapes and patterns in images, and recognize patterns in words or letters.
    • Creative Writing: Write short stories or poetry to stimulate your imagination.
  • Get Professional Help: If your symptoms are severe talk to your healthcare provider about Cognitive behavior therapy, counseling, or HRT.

Key Takeaway

Menopause can bring significant cognitive challenges, but understanding menopause and cognitive changes, and implementing strategies to boost brain function, can make a profound difference. You don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Join our community to connect with other women experiencing menopause cognitive symptoms and access expert guidance. Together, we can manage menopause’s impact on cognitive function and thrive in this stage of life.

Download the Miror app to get connected to perimenopause and menopause expert specialists, and join our community for support and resources on this shared journey.

Citations

Sherien Minaz
I am a compassionate counsellor with a Master’s in clinical and counselling psychology and over 8 years of experience. I help clients with anxiety, depression, and relationship issues using evidence-based therapies like CBT, ABA, and mindfulness. I create a nonjudgmental, safe space for clients to explore their thoughts and feelings, empowering them to reach their full potential and live fulfilling lives.
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