Many of my patients are menopausal women over 45 and are experiencing symptoms associated with declining estrogen levels. Certainly, there are many annoying symptoms of menopause but one of the most frustrating can be glitches in memory.
These memory deficits are usually mild and reversible with re-balancing of hormones. However, if not given the proper attention, they can lead to more serious cognitive impairment. If you’re a woman in menopause, or nearing it, you’ll want to know what I tell my patients about their memory loss.
Menopause and Memory
Everyone, both women and men, experiences memory slips from time to time – not being able to remember where you left your keys, someone’s name, or something you meant to get at the store. These are short-term memory glitches that start to occur with age. However, with menopause, memory glitches can worsen with greater amount of estrogen decline.
Estrogen is a hormone that greatly affects cognitive functioning and plays a big role in the linguistic – or language processing – ability of your brain as well as mood and memory. When estrogen declines, this center of the brain slows down and causes slower language processing, difficulty concentrating, depression, and memory loss.
Like my female patients in the menopausal age group, you may have experienced worse memory glitches when you’re stressed out. No doubt, as estrogen also influences the control of cortisol – a stress hormone – levels. With decline in estrogen, cortisol can stay high in the brain and prevent both learning of new information and recall of old information. The more stressed out you get, the higher cortisol levels get and the more memory glitches you experience.
Rebalance Estrogen and Improve Your Memory
Many doctors propose HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to women to restore estrogen levels and banish all the symptoms of menopause, including memory issues. In theory, this sounds great, but there are risks associated with these hormones that are manufactured from man-made or animal sources. These risks include cancers of the breast and ovaries.
Here are some better options I offer my patients to restore hormone balance:
- “Bioidentical” hormones. These are created from natural, vegetable sources of estrogen, or phytoestrogen, herbs versus synthetic, or animal estrogen sources. Although BHRT works well, they don’t encourage your body to produce more of its own estrogen, rather takes over the function for it. This can result in even less of your own natural production of estrogen. BHRT can include herbs like soy, wild yam, black cohosh, red clover and ginseng. Though made from natural plant estrogens, they can still pose some minimal risks to women who have had breast cancer and/or fibroid tumors or ovarian, endometrial cancer. However, they have been used successfully by most women. Recently, DHEA (a multihormone precursor) has been suggested by Italian researchers to be used instead of HRT or BHRT in menopausal women. It also helps decrease cortisol levels that can aggravate menopausal memory losses. Ask your doctor about it.
- Natural, non-estrogenic herbs. These are herbs that do not contain phytoestrogens. Yet, they nourish the endocrine glands in your body that naturally produce estrogen, and other hormones. They allow your body to produce and balance its own hormones, both estrogen and testosterone which women also need. Frequently prescribed by doctors for women in Japan, China, France and Germany. These include substances like Maca root, which has been used for centuries in South America, notably Peruvian women. These are safe and without side effects.
What Else Will Improve Your Memory?
Along with rebalancing of hormones, I suggest several other things to my patients to boost memory performance:
- Optimal Nutrition. You should always eat healthy at any age, but perimenopause and menopause requires specific attention to nutrition. Getting adequate calcium for bone strength, protein to keep muscles strong, optimal antioxidants, vitamins and mineral intake, Omega-3 fatty acids, balance blood sugars with a low/no refined sugar diet.
- Exercise. Energizes your body and brain and decreases stress/cortisol levels with regular physical exercise, especially out in the fresh air. Aim for 30 minutes a day, 5-7 days a week. Also, strength training will help your brain focus on learning and balance skills.
- Learn something new. Try to memorize a short poem, do crossword puzzles, and learn a musical instrument or a new language. All these things stimulate the cognitive centers of your brain, helping learning and memory.
- Avoid toxins. Stay away from cigarette smoke, and inhaling environmental toxins.
- Hydrate, hydrate. Dehydration can wreak serious havoc with your brain functioning as your brain is about 85% water. Drink half your weight in water each day.
As I tell my female patients, menopausal memory loss can be especially frustrating as it can make you feel old and incompetent. However, rebalancing hormones can help a great deal in improving memory loss and all the symptoms of menopause. Ask your doctor about natural hormone replacement to determine which is the best route for you. Follow the above recommendations that I give my own patients to get back on the road to feeling and looking your best again and recalling where you put those darn keys!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
34 Menopause Symptoms, http://www.natural-progesterone-estrogen-supplements.com/memory-lapses-treatments.htm
Herbs for Menopause, http://www.herbs-for-menopause.com/articles/using-non-estrogenic-herbs-to-fight-your-menopausal-symptoms.htm
photo credit: mh2m.blogspot.com