Picture this; you’re at a social event, you’re catching up with old friends and mingling with new ones. You’re currently speaking to Jenny…Jamie? or was it Joey? S#%t! ‘No, it’s fine, I’ll just call her ‘hun”. But then you see your partner walking towards you, and all of a sudden, you’re in panic mode ‘I’m going to have to introduce them…but I can’t remember her name!!!’ and you wish the ground would open up and swallow you whole.
What is going on here?
Memory is the mental capacity of retaining or recalling facts, events, impressions or previous experiences. A lapse is when a person loses the mental capacity of retaining or recalling that information.
Menopause disrupts the balance of hormones in your body (I’m sure you would have figured that out, even with the lapse in memory). Memory loss is a very common complaint in menopausal women. Studies have shown 60% of women have reported their memory is not as good as it used to be, and most commonly during perimenopause (around the age of 45).
Many women with menopause-related brain fog find they tend to forget recently learned verbal information (if someone tells you where something) and having trouble concentrating. They often complain about drawing a blank on names of people they’ve just met, or forgetting what they needed or wanted to do once they’ve walked into a room. But the good news is memory and your learning abilities tend to return after menopause.
Why does this happen?
The levels of estrogen in your body play a big role in memory fog. Estrogen contributes to language skills, attention, mood, memory and actually has a large effect on the function of the brain and its processes. Estrogen is also directly linked to verbal word fluency (the ability to remember names and words), which is why a decrease in estrogen explains why a word used frequently is suddenly forgotten.
Sleep disturbances also contribute to brain fog. Sleep actually benefits learning and the retention of memory, as well as restores energy and repairs cell tissue.
Some medications can cause memory fog, including sleeping pills, antidepressants, heart medication, painkillers and tranquilisers.
A poor diet and a lack of active lifestyle can also affect your memory. Certain foods contain brain enhancing nutrients for mental function, and exercise keeps the mind in shape and stimulates the brain.
What can you do to improve your memory?
Exercise stimulates areas of our brain that is critical to memory and information processing, triggers the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels in the brain, improves the hippocampus which is responsible for making new memory and increases production of chemicals that promote repair of existing brain cells and the growth of new ones. It is recommended to do 30 minutes of moderate exercise 4 or 5 days a week.
Getting a good night’s sleep also helps to improve fuzzy thinking and brain fog, a lack of sleep makes it harder to pay attention or retain new information. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, including on weekends. Make your bedroom distraction free, dark, quiet, comfortable and cool.
Including a healthy diet is important. Vitamins B, C, D and E are important in proper mental function, and fresh fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants for memory boosting and helps to fuel the body and the brain.
Reduce the amount of stress in your life, as stress releases cortisol. Constant release of cortisol can damage the part of your brain responsible for memory and learning. Try stress reducing techniques such as yoga, meditation and breathing techniques.
Mental exercises can also help improve your memory, including crossword puzzles, sudoku, word games, reading books and newspapers, and learning a new skill (like dancing or playing an instrument).