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HEALTHCARE

ABC’s of Menopause: Brain Fog

Everything You Need to Know & How To Take Back Control.

Mia West
October 20, 2023
Medically-reviewed and fact checked by Ryan Lester, PA-C

Menopause is the “gift” that keeps on giving. With 34 associated symptoms that can easily be ascribed to a myriad of other health conditions, it can be impossible to know if what you’re experiencing is tied to menopause without a hormone test. Each week this series will break down symptoms to empower women to take back control of their health and enjoy some relief.

When it comes to menopause, we often hear about hot flashes and mood swings. However, there's one subtle, yet persistent companion that joins many women on this journey: brain fog. Up to two-thirds of women report a decline in memory function and concentration difficulties during perimenopause. This cognitive haze is a perplexing symptom, which I know firsthand can be frustrating and at times, downright alarming. To better understand how to navigate this mental cloud, we will explore the causes, signs, potential remedies, and the crucial question of when it's time to seek help from a healthcare professional.

What Causes Menopausal Brain Fog?

Brain fog during menopause is primarily a result of hormonal fluctuations, particularly the decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen, a key hormone in a woman's body, plays a role in various aspects of brain function, including cognition and memory. As estrogen levels drop, the brain may experience imbalances, leading to cognitive changes and, at times, memory lapses.

Additionally, sleep disturbances are common during menopause, with symptoms like night sweats and insomnia disrupting the restorative quality of sleep. Sleep is vital for cognitive function, and a lack of it can contribute to the feeling of mental fogginess.

How Do I Know My Brain Fog is Menopause Related?

Identifying brain fog that is directly related to menopause can be challenging, as it often shares common characteristics with cognitive impairments associated with other conditions, stress, or aging. Here are some signs to help differentiate menopause-related brain fog:

  • Memory lapses: Forgetting names, appointments, or where you placed your keys can become more frequent during menopause.
  • Difficulty concentrating: You might find it harder to stay focused or complete tasks that previously posed no challenge.
  • Word retrieval issues: Struggling to find the right word in conversation is a common sign of cognitive changes during menopause.
  • Mood swings: Emotional fluctuations, such as irritability and anxiety, can accompany brain fog.
  • Fatigue: Feeling more tired than usual can exacerbate cognitive difficulties.

What Else Causes Brain Fog?

While menopause-related brain fog is a distinct phenomenon, it's crucial to consider other potential causes for cognitive changes. High levels of stress and anxiety, sleep disorders like sleep apnea, medications, depression and chronic illnesses can have cognitive symptoms.

What Are My Treatment Options?

Managing menopause-related brain fog often involves a combination of strategies:

  • Hormone optimization: Women can find relief through hormone replacement therapy (HRT) which improves estrogen and progesterone levels. It can also address other menopause-related symptoms that contribute to the issue like sleep disruptions. 
  • Lifestyle changes: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress-reduction techniques like meditation or yoga can help improve cognitive function.
  • Adequate sleep: Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a conducive sleep environment can address sleep-related cognitive impairments.
  • Cognitive training: Engaging in mental exercises and puzzles can help maintain and enhance cognitive abilities.

When Should I See A Doctor?

If menopause-related brain fog is significantly affecting your daily life and is accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional. They can help determine if there are underlying medical issues contributing to the cognitive changes and guide you in selecting the most appropriate treatment, including hormone optimization.

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About the Author

Mia West

A former journalist, Mia brings a high energy approach to communications rooted in insights, culture and brand DNA. She is driven by helping brands crystalize their story and foster meaningful, emotional connections with audiences. Over the years she has collaborated with prominent brands such as Petco, Keurig Dr Pepper, Jaguar Land Rover, Revlon, and Procter & Gamble Beauty, as well as many others in the retail, health & wellness, beauty, lifestyle, and sustainability realms. A California native, she lives in San Diego with her family at the beach.

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