Have you noticed that you keep misplacing the car keys, forgot what you had for breakfast, are not sure what day of the week is it, or cannot remember your closest friend’s phone number? Do family members and friends constantly tease you that senility is setting in? If so, and you are a woman going through menopause, the issue is likely menopause memory problems, a natural course of life and not insanity.
Many times, women will go through menopause having trouble with memory or concentration and not ever link it to the change of life but as you are about to discover, memory lapses go hand-in-hand with menopause and while frustrating, they are not serious.
While young, a good memory is often taken for granted, something you never think twice about but as women near menopausal years things begin to change.
Some women will experience only slight memory loss during menopause, possible going to the closet to get something, and finding themselves standing there without a clue what they went for while other women have more severe symptoms, leaving food cooking on the stove or perhaps forgetting to pick the children up from school.
Stop panicking – this is normal
Just remember, menopause memory problems are perfectly normal and merely a part of the natural aging process that is often magnified by menopause. In most cases, the memory loss is just temporary and as you progress through the change, your mind will snap back to a normal thought process.
The fascinating thing about memory is that the absolute way in which it works remains a mystery. However, experts in the medical field do believe memory works in three stages. First, there is the registration stage. With this, you have sensory where perception of surroundings and observations are made and then stored.
The second stage is retention and the third, recall. When the sensory memory is repeated, mulled over, or rehearsed, it is maintained in our short-term memory area. Then as new information is received and absorbed, it displaces the old information, which is then lost or if repeated, mulled over, or rehearsed enough, will move to the long-term memory area of the brain.
Memory comes in many forms, starting with our short-term memory, which involves immediate or working memory. In this case, it would be something like hearing a phone number of house address and then being able to recall it. The short-term memory part of the brain is designed to be a temporary holding area.
In other words, once information is used, it is forgotten.
Then you have sensory memory, which also falls within the immediate category. This type of memory means you would have the ability to recognize things such as sights, smells, and sounds. If you break this down, the visual part of sensory memory typically lasts less than one-half a second but the audio portion lasts just a few seconds.
Your sensory memory will last for life and is only lost or erased caused from brain injury.
The next type of memory is the recent memory, which allows you to recall events from day to day. With recent memory, you are able to learn. Then, there is long-term memory, which lets you remember things from the distant. This would include childhood events, articles read years ago, favorite television shows, and so on.
Declarative memory is next on the list, which is often considered a part of remote or long-term memory. In this case, you have the ability to remember the meaning of things to include words, world knowledge, or facts. Included in declarative memory is semantic memory, again the ability to remember the meaning of things and episodic memory, which is what people lose with amnesia.
The next type of memory is called procedural memory. This is connected to long-term memory and associated with memory of motor skills. In other words, this type of memory allows you to remember how to drive a car, ride a bike, water or snow ski, hike or walk, dress yourself, eat, comb your hair, brush your teeth, and so on. Finally, there is prospective memory, which refers to your ability to remember that you need to do something in the future. As an example, this type of memory is what would keep you on track when planning a vacation, a trip to the doctor’s office, or your daughter’s dance recital.
Menopause Memory Problems – Memory lapses, or More?
Although most people lose some degree of memory as they age, menopause and memory problems have been shown to go hand in hand. Just remind yourself that going through these memory lapses has nothing to do with being unintelligent. It just means that your brain has experienced cell death that is perfectly natural around age 40, along with other factors that have to do with menopause.
For instance, women going through menopause memory problems are also often dealing with pain, anxiety and stress, insomnia, and physical problems such as hot flashes and night sweats. In other words, at this time, the woman is overwhelmed with so many changes, living in an unfamiliar body. That coupled with the natural aging process and it is no wonder she can remember her own name.
Studies have also shown that when a woman has reduced levels of estrogen, also a natural part of the menopause phase, menopause memory problems can occur. Over the years, numerous studies have been done to determine what things can benefit the menopause memory symptoms.
One such study took 30 women with an average age of 75. For a full year, 50% of the women were given estrogen while the other 50% were not. The results were that the women receiving the estrogen had a marked improvement in memory over the second group of women.
To test this theory further, a second study was performed but in this case, it involved 50 women going through post-menopause and the study lasted for three years. Again, estrogen was given to 50% of the women while the other 50% went without.
During the first two years of the study, the treated women again showed significant improvement in memory but in the third year, no change was reported. Experts believe the key is to get women going through menopause in a state where they are sleeping well, eating a healthy diet, exercising, not having hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, headaches, joint pains, vaginal dryness, and so on.
Another consideration for women in menopause relating to memory is that mood swings, lack of concentration, anxiety, frustration, and depression are common. These stressors alone are enough to create the distraction that appears as memory loss.
Of course you’re forgetting things – your plate is too full!
Now, when you add in the fact that many menopausal women are at the age of taking care of elderly parents, going through a divorce, having kids leave home to head out on their own, and possibly moving into different careers, again it is no wonder memory becomes an issue. With depression, not only is the woman distracted so she does not receive the information but then she has difficulty with retrieval as well.
Okay, are you ready for some good news? In today’s society, you have many viable options for improving your memory while going through menopause. For starters, avoid alcohol, which is one of the most common causes of memory loss.
Although it might seem like alcohol is a good way to escape the symptoms menopause memory problems, the truth is that the challenges are only being masked, not fixed. In addition, you might talk to your doctor about taking some type of antidepressant that can help you cope with all that life is throwing your way.
If you are having difficulty sleeping, sleeping pills or natural remedies of things such as Kava Kava may help you get the rest you need to keep your mind sharp and clear.
Remember, if you are pre-menopausal, in the middle of menopause, or post-menopausal and start to notice that you forget things, do not worry. Millions of women are going through this very thing right along with you.
Try to find the humor in situations, laughing them off by knowing this is just temporary. Again, your doctor can work with you on possible prescription medications or natural remedies that can get you past the difficult stage of menopause.