How to improve your memory during perimenopause and menopause

Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

05 February 2024

What can happen to your memory during perimenopause and menopause?

Memory issues are very common in perimenopause and menopause. The number of you who contact me because you've started to get really upset or distressed about it is absolutely huge.

You can experience issues such as problems recalling information. You want to talk about something. You know it's in there at the back of your head. It's on the tip of your tongue, but you just can't get it out. This can be very distressing and frustrating, and it can be really worrying as well because it can get to the point where you start to think, "Am I getting Alzheimer's or dementia? What is going on with me?"

So, why does this happen?

Well, there does seem to be a link between oestrogen levels falling and the speed and way in which messages are sent around the brain. So, you're looking for something in your brain, you're searching for memories, for a name or something, and it just takes you longer to recall that. It's almost like an old computer taking three times as long to get the information out. And it's all to do with the synapses and the chemicals in the brain that are causing this slowdown.

This can impact your day-to-day tasks. You forget to do things. You forget the best way to do things. You meet someone on the street that you've known for years, and suddenly you can't remember their name. It can be especially obvious with long-term memory, if you're having to think about something that happened quite a long time ago.

It could be you're forgetting birthdays. You know, I do that a lot. I end up writing people's birthdays down on the wrong date, and then when I send a message, they're like, "It's not my birthday today," and you're like, "Oops."

One of the things that can be worrying is that it can affect your work. You may find that your brain is not working as quickly as it should. You're forgetting things. You're finding it more difficult to talk to people, maybe to make presentations, and that in itself can be extremely distressing and worrying as well.

Poor sleep, which is common in perimenopause and menopause, can also impact your memory. If you're tired, if you're not sleeping night after night after night, then you're not going to have the sharpest memory at all. It could be because you're fatigued during the day. And again, if you're very tired or if you're struggling with energy, then that's going to affect your brain.

It could just be that you're extra busy. At this point in our lives, a lot of us still have family at home. You may be juggling a job. You might have elderly parents or relatives to look after, so you are multitasking to the nth degree. You're really, really busy, and then you expect yourself to remember absolutely everything. And it's not surprising that this is one of the things that can fall by the wayside.

Tips to boost your memory and cognitive health during perimenopause and menopause

Here are some of my top tips to help improve your memory and brain function:

Eat brain-boosting foods: The hormonal changes that go on in your body can be huge and demand a great deal of energy. So, if your diet is not particularly good or if you're not eating as well as you should, then your body is not going to get all the extra nutrition it needs. It's like your car. If you're going on long journeys regularly, you're going to have to keep topping it up with fuel. And our bodies need good-quality fuel to keep us going.

For brain function, you're looking at things like omega-3, which is important for brain function. This is found in oily fish. It can be in flaxseed. It can be in walnuts. You can also get a good quality fish oil supplement or, if you're vegetarian or vegan, you can get flaxseed supplements to boost your intake of omega-3.

You also need antioxidants which can be found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and fresh food.

You also need B12. What I am finding now is that B12 deficiency seems to be a common issue with a lot of women who are hitting perimenopause and menopause. Whether it's lifestyle, whether it's environmental, whether it's stress, or diet, I'm not too sure; but vitamin B12 deficiency in perimenopause and menopause is absolutely huge.

You find B12 in just a small range of foods, so it tends to be meat, fish, and dairy. So, if you're vegetarian or vegan, a vitamin B12 supplement of some kind is really, really important. And I would recommend everybody, especially those of you in the UK where the deficiency is rife, to ask your doctor for a quick check. I will be doing a whole blog on vitamin B12 shortly, so look out for that.

Stay well hydrated: Your brain is 80% water. So, if you're dehydrated, your brain will literally shrink. And if it starts to get really bad, that's going to affect your brain, your thinking, and your cognitive function; so, drinking plenty of water is very important every day.

Sleep well: As I mentioned before, poor sleep will cause cognitive issues, so look at introducing a good sleep hygiene routine. Like we always say, switch off your phones, TV and everything, about an hour before you go to bed.

You can look at supplements and herbs that can help with sleep. So, we know things like lemon balm can be really, really helpful, and magnesium too. You could look at our new product Sleep Well. These are granules that you just pour directly into your mouth, maybe about half an hour to an hour before you go to bed. Or if you're one of these people like me, where you wake up in the middle of the night and your brain goes into overdrive, then you can take a sachet in the middle of the night as well, just to help you get back to sleep.

Minerals that help support cognitive function: You could also look at other minerals that are really important for brain function, so that's things like magnesium and zinc. And we have those in our Focus Perimenopause Passiflora Complex tablets as well.

Exercise regularly: Exercise is really important, especially if, like me, you're sitting at a desk all day, and you're not moving much. Your circulation is going to get really sluggish, and your brain needs lots of oxygen for maximum function.

If you sit for long periods, according to the last lot of research I read, they reckon you should get up once every 55 minutes. Why 55? I don't know. Just get up, move about a bit, wave your arms about, do a few star jumps or something, if you can, just to get your circulation going again.

A good walk at lunchtime if you can get out there, maybe for half an hour, can do you the world of good as well. And that can help with the mid-afternoon brain slump that a lot of us get.

If you find that you're very stressed, that can affect brain function as well. Things like yoga, Tai Chi, relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness can all be helpful.

Extra tip: Exercise your brain too! Engage in activities that challenge your brain, such as puzzles, crosswords, reading, or learning a new skill. These activities can help stimulate your brain and maintain cognitive function.

Breathe deeply: One thing most of us tend not to think about is, "Are you breathing properly?" And again, if we are really stressed, if we're sitting at a desk, our shoulders go up. We hunch. Our lungs get squashed. We can't even breathe properly, and that's going to affect our brain function as well. So, every so often, especially if you're not moving about a lot, then do maybe two or three rounds of very slow, deep breathing just to get that going again.

So, I hope you found this one helpful. It's a huge issue. I'm seeing just so many queries about this at the moment. If you have found something that works well for you, please share as always. I love hearing your stories and reading everything that's going on.

Until next time, take care and have a lovely week.

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