A.Vogel Talks Menopause: Loss of memory, poor concentration and brain fog

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

18 January 2016

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog A.Vogel Talks Menopause. Now, I’ve had a request from Suzanne [SP] who is asking, “Please, can you do an article on brain fog? It’s my worst symptom and one of the most debilitating.”

This is such a common symptom. I get so many women asking me about brain fog, about feeling in a daze, losing your memory, and also losing concentration as well. So I thought I’d cover all these today. Now, because they’re under the same umbrella, I’m going to give you all the tips right at the very end.

Memory loss

This is the first question. Louise [SP] is asking, “I have started to experience memory loss. Could this be part of the menopause?” Now, yes, memory loss and losing concentration is probably one of the more common symptoms of the menopause, and it’s one that the majority of women will experience at some point. Now, it seems to be the one that doesn’t last all the way through. You might have a phase of it. It might last about six months or maybe a year or a year and a half, and the great thing is that it’s one of these ones that does tend to ease off as you go through the menopause, so it’s not permanent, so-to-speak.

Now, this is a real, physical menopause symptom. I get so many women saying, “Am I going mad? Am I losing my mind?” No. We know for a fact that falling estrogen can actually affect the way in which the neurotransmitters work in your brain, and they are actually causing slower transmissions and slower nerve contacts in the brain, and all of this will affect the way in which you actually think. So please, don’t despair if you have this. It is a real, proper menopause symptom.

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Forgetting simple things

And the second question is from Margaret, and she is asking, “Could you tell me if it’s normal in the pre or perimenopause to forget very simple words and names of people that you know and to forget what you have done on a very small scale?”

Now, yes, this is so embarrassing, and I know this is one of the symptoms that I actually experienced. You’re out somewhere, you’re talking to somebody and, I know for me, it just felt like somebody had pulled the plug on my brain and there was absolutely nothing there, and I actually used to call it my black hole moment, and it would actually take just maybe a few seconds or so before everything would actually come back again. And I’m sure we’ve all done the classic one where we’ve walked into the room and then gone “What am I here for?”, and we’ve had to go out and then think about what we were actually doing there before we’ve gone in again.

We also have the ones where we forget to put things and we just think, “Where have I actually put this?”, and then you find it in the most sensible place after all. I know, for me, that there was one particular morning I sort of came to with the fridge door open trying to put my washing powder and fabric conditioner into the fridge, and the worrying thing was that I was actually thinking, “Why don’t they fit?” It actually took a moment or two before I actually thought, “Right. These don’t actually go into the fridge at all.” But I have learned from that that if I lose something, one of the first places now that I look in is the fridge, and it’s amazing what I’ve actually found in there. So please don’t worry. These are really, really common symptoms as well.

Poor concentration

Now, the other question is, “Please, can you suggest something for poor concentration?”, and this is from Ellen, who is 52.

This can be quite a worrying one because this can actually affect your situation at work, and I know we’ve had a number of women who’ve emailed in and have said they’ve actually been brought up about it purely because they’re losing concentration, they’re making mistakes at work and their bosses are not actually accepting this at all, and this can be quite worrying, because the last thing you want to do is have insecurity about your job or to be actually threatened with the sack, which quite a number of women actually have done.

Now, one of the things that can actually happen here with these symptoms is that we’re just really busy now. As women going through the menopause, we have so many different things to actually think about. Now, in days gone by, in my mother’s generation and grandmother’s generation, the majority of women would stay at home and that was their environment, whereas today, we’ve probably got family at home, we’re also working maybe full-time, you may have elderly parents or other relatives to look after as well and we’re forever thinking, aren’t we? You’re not just in the moment. There’s the thought…I know I go to bed and it’s like, “Oh! I forgot to do such and such today” and “I must remember to do this tomorrow,” and then you wake up in the morning and your brain is already in over gear, and I think sometimes these lapses of concentration tend to be a lot to do with just how busy we are as women and that we don’t actually give ourselves a chance to rest.

What you can do to help yourself

So the really important thing here, when you get any memory problems, is first of all to make sure that you’re getting plenty of rest and relaxation and just a chance for your brain to shut down. I mean, you wouldn’t expect your computer to work 24 hours a day, because when we put too much into a computer, it very often crashes, and it’s the same with our minds as well. So having that little bit of rest can be really beneficial. And there’s actually…you can now get apps to remind you to do a little 10 minutes of mindfulness or just switching your mind off, so these are really handy things to have with you.

The other things that you can look at are herbs, such as ginkgo biloba, which is known for helping with memory. We have something called Concentration Essence, which can help you just to focus that little bit more. The other things are dehydration, low blood sugar level, and not breathing properly. Now, dehydration can give you the brain fog. It can interfere with your concentration. And we know as well that these little memory blips are very often caused by anxiety. Your nervous system goes into overdrive. I know, for me, that was very often the issue.

So when you get these little “black hole” moments, as I call them, one of the best things to do is to actually just close your eyes for a second, if it’s safe to do so, and just take a couple of deep breaths, and as you relax, you should find that everything will come back into focus. But drinking your water…and I hope those of you that have been watching the last few episodes will be upping your water intake, so you should find that that helps as well.

Low blood sugar level is another thing that can help with your concentration and your memory. If you’re busy, we often forget to eat at the right times. We sometimes have big gaps between meals, and sometimes, we’re eating the wrong things because high-sugar foods will rev up your nervous system and cause problems as well. So it’s the lovely, healthy snacks like your nuts and seeds and your dried fruits and your yogurts and fresh fruits, if you can do that as well.

Now, Suzanne, about the brain fog, this is one that very often people feel they’re in a zone. It’s almost as if they’re slightly out of sync with everybody else. You might find that you feel as if you’re in a daze all the time and you can’t actually really connect to anybody else or anything that you’re doing as well. And again, this is one that can be very frightening because you can just feel that you’re “Not quite me” anymore. So again, the remedies like ginkgo biloba, Concentration Essence will help. The deep breathing is a really important one for this one, too. But you may find for all these symptoms as well that, if you can, if it’s appropriate, you can just very gently up your oestrogen levels as well, and that might help. You can use things like Menopause Support or black cohosh or a red clover supplement as well.

So hopefully this has given you a few tips to look at.

Your homework for this week

For next week, I would like you to try the 10 minutes out and try to do a little bit of relaxation. Look up some of these apps. I know I just saw on UK TV today that there was actually an advert for a 10 minute app that you can plug into. So try that, let me know how you get on, and if you have anymore questions, please do send them in. I’m looking forward to next week – see, I’m forgetting things as well – when we’re going to be talking about the dreaded flushes and night sweats.

Eileen's extra tips

  • Post-it notes are a menopausal girl’s best friend! I use them all the time!
  • Do tell all your friends and family what is happening, you don’t need to elaborate about the menopause but if they are aware that this is just a hormonal phase that you are going through and at the moment it is making you a bit forgetful and unorganised then they are more likely to support and help you rather than criticise or get mad at you.
  • If you feel that your poor memory is really affecting all areas of your life do get it checked out by your doctor

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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