Many women were not surprised by a new report saying that fuzzy thinking during menopause is real. Hormonal shifts at menopause can throw you off your mental game. The reason: There are loads of oestrogen receptors in areas of the brain that control working memory. When there is less oestrogen to turn these receptors on, memory degrades until the receptors adjust. With the fluctuations of menopause, the receptors often cannot adjust fast enough. Things often improve once the wild hormone swings stop, but plenty of other factors like sleep, diet and exercise can help or hurt this important brain function, too.
Try hormone therapy: Ask your doctor about bio-identical estradiol and micronised progesterone plus aspirin to decrease blood clot and cancer risks. (Hormone therapy may not be for you if you’re at high risk for breast cancer.) There’s recent evidence that bio-identical estradiol is better than conventional oestrogen (called conjugated equine oestrogen) for clearing up brain fog.
These next tips can benefit anyone’s working memory whether you’re in the middle of hot flashes, a 30-something guy or a senior canasta player.
Walk, swim, bike, run or dance: For working-memory brain benefits you need to hustle your muscles rather than building more. Brisk walking is enough to boost volume and activity in brain areas associated with a super-efficient working memory. The more help you need with working memory, the more exercise seems to help. Three specific ways a stroll boosts working memory: Exercise increases the number of connections between brain cells, makes the connections stronger and improves blood flow in these brain regions.
Eat for your brain: Omega-3 fats are brain food and help working memory work better. And now that we know even adult brains replenish and re-grow new cells, it makes sense that you need plenty of these fats. The good omega-3 fatty acid, called DHA, is an important building block of brain cell membranes. Have fatty fish three times a week, or get 900 milligrams of DHA a day from algal oil or fish oil capsules.
Get a good night’s sleep: Menopause can wreck a good night’s sleep. Get checked for sleep apnea (a problem for one in three overweight women and for plenty of men, too). Skimping on sleep erodes working memory. Turn in earlier, turn off electronics before bed and adopt a bedtime routine (a couple of stretches, a warm shower or some light reading)