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Fight the fog: Memory issues during menopause

Lankenau Medical Center February 16, 2016

In the years during perimenopause and menopause, most women expect to endure some uncomfortable symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats. But memory loss? That’s a symptom some women may be surprised by.

“It isn’t uncommon for women to experience some forgetfulness or to feel ‘foggy’ during menopause as a result of fluctuating estrogen levels,” explains David Park, DO, neurologist with Main Line HealthCare Neurology at Lankenau Medical Center.

Fortunately, this forgetfulness or ‘brain fog’ is rarely cause for concern. While not all women will be affected by it, those who are may just find themselves having difficulty concentrating or recalling small facts. And, should you find yourself feeling ‘foggy,’ there’s good news: those symptoms may disappear in the years following menopause.

Fight the fog

In the meantime, there are ways to help fight a foggy mind.

“Just as we promote physical exercise for a healthy and stimulated body, it’s important to get mental exercise for a healthy and stimulated brain,” says Dr. Park. “Keep your mind active during menopause with mental exercises like crossword puzzles, number games, or board games. It’s also important to stay active socially. Keep in touch with family and friends, and participate in community activities.”

Of course, physical health is an important part of mental health. Staying active and maintaining a balanced diet won’t just help keep your brain sharp—it can help ward off weight gain during menopause, too.

Finally, be sure to get enough sleep. The time you spend sleeping each night allows your brain time to recharge and rid itself of toxins. Without a good night’s sleep, you could be putting your brain at risk for poor memory and cognitive function.

Is it more than menopause?

While a little fogginess during menopause may be nothing to worry about, how can you tell when memory issues are cause for concern?

"If you find that you are becoming more forgetful, then you should visit your physician. If friends and family raise concerns about your memory, it should also prompt a visit, as many memory problems are often noticed by the people around you first," says Dr. Park. "Short-term memory loss tends to be an issue for people early on, but long-term memories—including some historical facts--may still remain, even in those with mild dementia."

Dr. Park also warns against jumping to conclusions. Although memory problems can be a sign of dementia, it could be a symptom of other issues, too, like Vitamin B12 deficiency, thyroid function, or hearing problems. If you're struggling to concentrate and easily losing focus, it may also be a sign of an attention disorder, depression, or anxiety rather than dementia. For an accurate diagnosis, make an appointment with your physician.

Main Line Health gynecologists provide expertise in a wide range of services, including contraceptive services, care during perimenopause, and preventative care in the post-menopausal years. If you’re concerned about memory issues during menopause, talk to your gynecologist. Visit our website for more information on coping with the challenges of menopause, or to find a Main Line Health gynecologist in your area.