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Does Menopause Cause Memory Loss?

Does Menopause Cause Memory Loss?

Are you constantly forgetting what you are saying mid-sentence, what you went into a room for, or where you put your car keys?


You might be surprised to know you are not alone. Losing your memory around middle age can be alarming, but you don’t have to freak out.


These senior moments and fuzzy thoughts are not necessarily symptoms of serious brain issues. For many women in their 40s and beyond, they are because of menopause.


According to the World Journal of Psychiatry, 62% of peri- and post-menopausal women show a decline in their thinking and memory.(1)


They have a hard time remembering numbers and words and need memory aids to support their brain as they go through the transition.(2)


So how does menopause cause memory loss?


In this article, we discuss how menopause can lead to memory loss, as well as include tips to help support healthy memory and brain health during this phase.

menopause infographic

Menopause and Memory Loss

Most women associate menopause with a change in their ovarian function and menstrual cycle.


However, the fact that they are also agonizing over night sweats, heat flashes, sleep issues, mood swings, and memory lapses means that menopause does not only affect the ovaries but also the brain.


These changes happen because estrogen, also known as cognitive enhancers, starts to decline as we age.


You see, estrogen fuels neurons, so having less than normal levels can affect your brain function.


Neurons support brain communication, so without enough fuel, your memory may suffer.


During menopause, your ovaries gradually stop functioning as they once did.


They eventually produce fewer eggs until they stop entirely.


When this happens, your body responds by lowering the production of estrogen since the body no longer needs more of it for reproduction.


However, this doesn’t happen instantly.


Your estrogen levels can fluctuate during perimenopause, which is associated with sometimes alarming neurological symptoms, such as brain fog, fuzzy thinking, and forgetfulness.


Apart from the hormonal changes, you may also have difficulty sleeping due to night sweats and hot flashes caused by imbalanced estrogen levels.


As we all know, not getting enough sleep can also lead to brain fog and decreased concentration.(3)


Moreover, a study published in the Scientific Reports discovered how menopause can lead to structural changes in the brain.(4)


Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D. and author of The XX Brain, together with her team, performed a series of brain scans on 161 women aged 40 to 65.


They divided the women into three groups — pre-menopause, perimenopause, and post-menopause.


Then they compared their scans to 125 men of similar ages.


They also did follow-up scans on some of the participants two years later.


The study revealed that women in their perimenopause phase undergo some major changes that affect their health.


The researchers reported that there was a dip in the gray matter area of the brain, which is responsible for processing information and sensory signaling.(5)


Similarly, there were also significant changes in the brain’s white matter area, which is involved in the connections and communication between brain regions.(6)


This can put women at more risk of severe memory problems that are usually most common in older adults.(7)


Some of the cognitive symptoms you may experience during menopause include the following:


Short-Term Memory Decline

If you find it challenging to remember recent events or conversations, you might be experiencing short-term memory decline due to menopause.


In the Journal of Climacteric, researchers worked with 12 Australian women between 45 to 60 years old to identify how low estrogen levels can affect memory and cognitive performance.(8)


Results showed that 82% of the participants reported memory issues, especially those in their peri and post-menopausal stages.


Apart from easily forgetting things and events, they also experienced some lapses in reaction time, attention, and verbal memory.


Difficulty Concentrating

You used to be able to work for hours without any distractions, but now you find yourself losing focus in the span of just a few minutes.


Lack of concentration is one of the most common complaints of women experiencing menopause.


These women have difficulty focusing or paying attention, which may hinder them from finishing tasks.


They may also find it difficult to read and understand books.


This is usually more profound in women in their first year of the postmenopausal phase.


This has been shown in a study published in Menopause, where out of all 117 menopausal women studied who were in their late reproductive stage, early menopausal transition stage, late menopausal transition stage, and first year of post-menopause, those in their first year of post-menopause had the weakest performance in their verbal memory, verbal learning, and motor function.(9)


They also had diminished attention and focus compared to the women studied in other stages.


Word Retrieval

Some women also struggle to find the right words during conversation, which is also known as the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon.


According to a psychoneuroendocrinology study, this is because estrogen fluctuations negatively impact the language processing areas in the brain, affecting verbal memory.


For example, in a 2017 study published in PLoS One, researchers discovered that menopausal women can have up to a 2% decline in verbal episodic memory in a span of 10 years.(10)


Slower Cognitive Processing

Women in their menopause stage also experience slow cognitive processing, which is important in memory tasks and decision-making.


These people need more time to take in, understand, and respond to information.


They struggle to keep up in conversations, especially when people switch topics.


In fact, a study published in the Journal of BMC Women's Health revealed that women in their perimenopausal period showed a decrease in processing speed and delayed verbal episodic memory.


This isn’t just because of estrogen decline but also due to changes in luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone levels, responsible for gonadal function and ovulation.(11)


The good news is that these symptoms of memory loss can improve later on, especially when your hormone levels are no longer out of whack.


Practicing a healthy lifestyle such as eating a healthy diet and working out can also help support memory health.


You can also take memory-supporting nutrients for a healthy brain and sharp memory.


4 Nutrients to Support Memory During Menopause

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The hippocampus, a part of the brain, plays an important role in memory and learning.


Studies have shown that people with larger hippocampal volumes have a higher omega-3 index.(12)


This is because DHA and EPA are critical nutrients for the neuron membranes.


They support the brain’s normal protective mechanisms by preserving the health of cell membranes and managing communication between brain cells.(13)


They also support healthy inflammatory responses in your brain.


A study published at Neurology® showed that healthy volunteers in their 40s and 50s who had healthy levels of omega-3 in their red blood cells showed healthy brain structure and cognitive function.


Cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel have an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids to help women experiencing uneasiness feel better. They can also support mood swings and brain health.(14)


According to The US Food and Drug Administration, it’s recommended that people take up to 3,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acid supplements per day.


The European Food Safety Authority recommends no more than 5,000 mg per day.(15)


Make sure you follow the recommended serving size to support healthy aging processes in your brain during menopause.(16)


Vitamin D

If you want to have a strong memory and support healthy cognition, you may want to take vitamin D.


Researchers have found that women with higher levels of this vitamin have sharp memory and thinking.


This is because vitamin D has a neuro-steroid property, which is critical in many brain functions.(17)


It’s also neuroprotective, meaning it supports calcium balance and immune system health.


On the other hand, a study by JAMA Neurology showed that those who have low vitamin D experience challenges in their semantic memory, which is usually accompanied by difficulty recalling words, numbers, and concepts.(18)


The National Institute of Health recommends you take anywhere between 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D a day.


Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 supports mood regulation.


It supports the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, which are responsible for sending signals and communication in the brain.(19,20) 


They deliver messages from one brain cell to the next and relay information throughout the body.


Vitamin B6 also supports healthy levels of homocysteine in the blood, thereby supporting healthy brain function.


Higher levels of homocysteine are linked to low mood, while lower levels can double your likelihood of experiencing mood swings and unease.(21,22)


In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, elderly subjects who were given vitamins B6, B12, and B9 exhibited healthy brain structure and volume for their age with consistent use.(23)


If you want to support brain sharpness and clear thinking during your perimenopause years, the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that people aged 18 years and older take between 1 and 1.5 mg of vitamin B6 a day.(24) 


Magnesium

Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body.


It plays a role in over 500 cellular reactions, including DNA production and muscle contraction.(25)


Magnesium is also involved in the signaling and communication of neurons between the body and brain.


It is a gatekeeper for the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors located in your nerve cells. NMDA supports memory, brain development, and learning.(26) 


However, 68% of the American population does not meet the daily recommended magnesium intake.(27)


When you have low levels of magnesium, fewer NMDA receptors are protected, making them prone to overstimulation that may damage nerve cells and cause brain problems.(28)


Specifically, magnesium supports healthy connections or synapses between brain neurons.


Loss of synapses is associated with memory impairment common in adults.


On the other hand, healthy levels of magnesium support a healthy memory and brain.


Not only that, but supplementation of magnesium also support healthy levels of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, supporting the aging process in a healthy way.


Therefore, if you want to support a healthy brain and memory during menopause, supplementing with magnesium can help.


Conclusion

Women are at more risk of memory issues as they reach menopause.


Symptoms like brain fog may lift over time, but for some women, it can persist throughout their lives.


To support brain health as you age, especially during menopause, it’s time to support your brain health with dietary supplements and a healthy diet to keep you sharp as a tack as you age.


You may want to check Seeking Health’s supplements for brain wellness, including Optimal Liposomal Glutathione and Liposomal Glutathione Plus, which help support your body’s antioxidant defenses.


Active B12 with L-5-MTHF (active vitamin B12 and folate) promotes normal methylation, which translates to cellular energy for cognitive health.


Moreover, our newest brain health support supplement is Serotonin Nutrients.


From production to synapse passages and beyond, the ingredients in Serotonin Nutrients support the serotonergic pathway to make sure our levels of the “feel good” neurotransmitter are at their peak.


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References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8394691/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125424/
  3. https://www.bupa.co.uk/newsroom/ourviews/menopause-memory-loss
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-90084-y.pdf
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK553239/
  6. https://medicine.uiowa.edu/white-matter-vs-gray-matter
  7. https://n.neurology.org/content/99/9/e935
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19722118/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23615642/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5207430/
  11. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32795281/
  12. https://www.ocl-journal.org/articles/ocl/full_html/2011/05/ocl2011185p242/ocl2011185p242.html#
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4404917/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9100978/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12438303
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3286229/
  17. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00429-019-01840-w
  18. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2436596
  19. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-B6
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16763894
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17541043
  22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18838531
  23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23690582/
  24. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25540137
  26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22034391
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29093983
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12909079

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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