Today I'm going to be asking, "Is it normal to be forgetful in the menopause?" And the answer is, "Oh, definitely yes."
Can menopause cause memory problems?
So yes, being forgetful in the menopause is one of those really common symptoms and most women will experience it to some degree. You can forget names; you can put things away and then forget where they are; you can forget the times; you can forget appointments. The one thing to make really clear here is that this is a real physical reaction to what is going on in your body. You are not going mad, you are not going nuts.
There is a real reasonable explanation for this. I know a lot of women really worry about it, so do take heart. On the whole, this is just one of the many phases that you will go through as you travel through the menopause. The problem with this one is it's not necessarily just one single thing that's happening that's making you forgetful. It can be different combinations for different women, so this is one of these situations where it's quite a good idea to sit down and list what's going on in your life.
You might find there's a set of clues that are, for you, contributing to this phase of forgetfulness. We do know that oestrogen is a big factor. I have read about this. It's quite complex, but there's a combination of chemicals and neurotransmitters in the brain that can all be affected by falling oestrogen and that will have a direct impact on the way that our brain works. But there are other things going on as well.
Other causes of memory problems
It can be just our age; as we get older our brain function can slow down that little bit, although, really, it shouldn't do.
Poor sleep and fatigue
A lot of it can be due to sleep and fatigue. If we're getting flushes and sweats during the night, if we are not sleeping well, if we are really tired, then how on earth can our brain function well too? It's just not possible.
Stress and low mood
It can be stress and low mood. These things will interfere with our brain function, and our rationale, and our thinking processes.
Medication side effect
It can be medication. If you're on medication, and you find that your forgetfulness has got worse since you started the medication, then just check the side effect list on the patient information leaflet to make sure that that isn't a reason.
It can be nutritional deficiencies. Our brain really needs to be well-fed and if we go through the menopause, that's already putting a huge drain on our nutritional balance, so make sure that you're eating really, really well at this particular point.
Low thyroid function
It can also be low thyroid function and we know that a lot of women get affected by borderline thyroid issues during the menopause. It's all part and parcel of the way the whole endocrine system works. This can be a factor, certainly, for foggy thinking and forgetfulness as well.
How to improve memory during menopause
So how do you sort this one out?
Balance your hormones to boost your memory
You can look at balancing oestrogen. This is obviously a really sensible one to do, so if it's appropriate, you could try our Menopause Support. This is known to gently raise and balance oestrogen levels. It also contains magnesium which is great for the mind as well, so just remember that one.
Take your b vitamins and Omega-3’s
Your B vitamins are really important for brain function and the problem is that if our diet is not very good, then we end up lacking in B vitamins. B vitamins are also really eaten up by stress and anxiety.
A lot of us going through the menopause are going to be really, really stressed so we're going to be deficient in the very nutrients that are going to help us to think better during the menopause. We can look at fish oils or, if you're vegetarian or vegan, you can go for flaxseed oil. These are sources of omega-3, an essential fatty acid that is important for brain function.
So having a supplement of this is great. The good thing about omega-3 is that, not only does it help brain function, it's great for your joints and it's great for the skin, so you're getting a range of super benefits with this particular supplement as well.
This is the one time in our lives when multitasking should be banned. Our brains are on fire the whole time. We're really busy; if you're working, if you've got family, then it's really difficult to actually focus and concentrate. I always think it's a bit like an overloaded computer.
If you keep shoving information into your computer without putting it in the proper place, eventually it's going to crash. It's just the same with our brains. We need to give ourselves quite a lot of leeway in the menopause, so it's a really important thing here to get rest and relaxation just to give our brains a little bit of a rest.
Keep a diary
Keep a diary. I find Post-it notes are absolutely invaluable too. The only thing with diaries and Post-it notes is you have to be really specific. I find, even now, I'll open my work diary and there'll be one word in it and, after a couple of weeks, I won't have a clue. I don't know what it means.
So if you're leaving notes to remind yourself about things, then just make a few details so that when the time comes for you to review it, you know exactly what you're supposed to be doing or what you're supposed to be looking at.
Have a little bit of a routine; for example, try to keep your glasses and car keys in the same places. I know routines can get a bit boring, but I find that if I come in in a rush and put my car keys down somewhere instead of in the usual place, you can guarantee that the next morning I'm spending five minutes running around the house, looking for them. So these little tips can often save you an awful lot of time and anxiety when you're coming to look for a particular object.
Exercise your body and brain
Exercise is absolutely great. Getting out, doing a walk, doing a bit of yoga; all these things can help with circulation which will help with brain function. It’s also important to do things that are going to exercise your brain itself too.
Sitting down in front of the telly every night can be mind-numbing. Your brain basically just goes into a half state of sleep, so do read, do crossword puzzles, do simple little things, or even jigsaw puzzles. Do things on a daily basis that are going to tax your brain in some way.
One or two of the best things apparently for the menopause and old age, or aging gracefully, is to learn to dance and to learn a new language. These things will really keep your brain on fire.
Another tip, breathe properly. I find it myself, when you’re sitting at the desk a lot of the time, you just don't breathe properly. How can your brain function, though, if it's not getting oxygenated? So learning slow deep breathing every hour or so can make a huge difference to how our brain operates.
Stay hydrated & your blood sugar stable
Last but not least, guess what it is? It's the water! Dehydration will shrink your brain and that will make it more difficult to cope as well. So loads of plain water on a daily basis. If you find that you're getting forgetful just at specific times of the day, then, very often, could be dehydration or it could also be low blood sugars as well. Remember, I said before that your brain need lots of nutrients to keep it going so, if your blood sugars get too low, that's going to affect your thinking ability as well.
Now, you can look at herbs such as ginkgo biloba. This herb is called ‘the memory tree’ because it's been used for hundreds of years to help with memory.
You can look at sage. Some people find when they take the herb sage that it helps with thinking.
Centuries ago, it was used by monks to help them concentrating when they were doing a lot of writing in candlelight or in the near dark. So sage seems to be able to help temporarily at giving your brain that little bit of a boost.
We also have one of the lovely flower essences called Concentration Essence which can help you to focus. It's a lovely little bottle. You can have it in your bag or your pocket and take it to work if you feel that your concentration is slipping a little bit there as well.
When do you need to go to the doctor about forgetfulness?
If it's worrying you in any way, shape, or form, then go. Even if it's just to get confirmation of the things I've been telling you, we want you to have peace of mind.
If you’re more serious things, such as day-today works, or if you can’t do simple things, if you find you’re getting lost or your hygiene routine has gone out the window, this might be a good time to speak to your doctor too.
The problem is, very often, when you get to this stage, you're not aware that these things are unusual, so this is a difficult situation. All I could say here is, anything that's worrying you unduly, that's causing you sleepless nights, that's giving you anxiety, then just double-check with your doctor.
Does memory improve after menopause?
The other thing I get asked about this is, "Will my brain go back to normal afterwards?" Yes, for most women, this is just one of those phases that you experience as you go through the menopause. My short-term memory wasn't particularly great before the menopause, so I'm probably still in exactly the same situation, but I use a lot of the techniques that I've explained today.
Long-term memory is great. I love learning new things, anything of real interest will stay in my brain but I tend to forget some of the day-to-day boring stuff, but there we go. So hopefully, I will see you next week for another edition of A.Vogel Talks Menopause.