Are you in
your 40s or 50s and wondering where your sharp memory went? Well, I can tell
you that you’re not the only one. I’ve been hearing this same complaint from several
friends—all of whom are in perimenopause or have recently reached menopause. While
I can honestly say nature is in part to blame, it is not entirely at fault.
extended time of “the change” our hormones get a little wonky. In
perimenopause, levels start to fluctuate in unpredictable ways. As the years
pass, your reproductive hormones are needed less, and estrogen and progesterone
levels decline sharply.
While the convenience of no longer having a monthly period is appreciated by many women, there are some drawbacks to these midlife hormone changes. Beyond reproduction, estrogen also plays a role in other areas of our bodies, including the brain. Thus, the decreased levels of it can lead to problems with focus, thinking, and memory. This can help explain why you keep forgetting where you put your keys or why you walked into another room.
I know it’s totally annoying when you can’t remember things the way you used to, so its really important to examine how your lifestyle choices could be making your memory problems worse than they should be.
1. You haven’t had your hormone levels assessed by your doctor. Many women think they need to suffer through perimenopause/menopause until they get to the other side of it, but it isn’t necessary to do that. I really encourage you to make an appointment and get the recommended lab tests done so you can take steps to reduce your symptoms. Seeing a functional medicine doctor (also known as integrative medicine physicians) can help you look at your hormones and overall health in a more holistic way. There are both hormone replacement and natural treatments that can be effective and help fight the inconvenient memory issues you are experiencing.
2. You feel edgy and irritated by the end of the day, so at night you regularly turn to your favorite wine to soothe your nerves and adjust your mindset. While a couple of drinks per week may not be too harmful, regular drinking can be detrimental to your brain. Alcohol is a toxin, and it can damage your brain cells, including the ones involved in memory. Plus, once its effects wear off, it can leave you feeling more irritable, not to mention that it’s known to disrupt sleep. And when you don’t get a good night’s rest, your memory and brain function suffer the next day. Try switching to sparkling water with some lemon, lime, or flavored stevia drops—or ice water with sliced fruit instead.
lost your motivation for regular exercise. Maybe you’re dealing with some bloating or weight
gain or just don’t have the mindset to get in a workout. It’s ironic that at a
time in life when we really need to put in the extra effort to maintain a
decent level of fitness, some days it can feel like the hardest thing to do. Did
you know that exercise not only helps you feel better and gives you more
energy, but it can improve your memory too? It also:
you opt for a walk in the park, a jog, yoga, lifting weights, or a family dance
party in the living room, there’s no question that exercise is one of the best
things you can do to boost your memory.
4. You’re giving in to food cravings that you used to be able to resist. Cookies, brownies, doughnuts, soda, and high-glycemic foods like pasta can be luring when your hormones fluctuate and you’re feeling out of sorts. One of the biggest problems with this is eating sugar leads to inflammation that can damage your organs and blood vessels, including the ones in your brain. This in turn causes mental fogginess which disrupts your ability to remember things. High blood sugar is also a precursor to type 2 diabetes which puts you at risk for more serious memory problems down the road, including Alzheimer’s disease.
To minimize unhealthy cravings, eat a balanced diet that includes some protein, lots of fresh produce, and healthy fats. And it’s okay to have a little indulgence from time to time but do that with treats that are healthy for you—and delicious too. One of my go-to favorites is dark chocolate, especially the Brain in Love and Brain on Joy chocolate bars from BrainMD. Also, on my website, I have free amazing dessert recipes (yes, they are brain-healthy!) such as Fresh Berries with Macadamia-Nut Sauce, that will satisfy your sweet tooth without the consequences of mental fog. To help calm the craving centers of the brain and balance blood sugar, try Craving Control from BrainMD.
Making simple tweaks like these to
your lifestyle can help balance the challenge of symptoms related to perimenopause
and menopause. The bonus of doing this now is that these things can help keep
your memory strong, not just through this time of change, but in the decades to
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