Memory loss can be a devastating experience for any woman, but the hormonal changes of menopause may compound the problem. The hormone estrogen creates and maintains nerve pathways in the brain. When estrogen drops, these nerve pathways can become less efficient, affecting everything from memory to mood. The good news is that steps you take during menopause may help reduce some of the symptoms of cognitive decline. And if your doctor determines you have a more serious form of memory loss, treatments are available.
Strategies to Help Fight Menopausal Memory Loss
1. Stay Physically Active
As we age, many of us slow down and become less active. But staying physically active is important for memory as well as overall health and wellness. Exercise stimulates the growth of new nerve cells in the brain and strengthens existing ones by increasing blood flow to the brain. In fact, one of the most frequently recommended treatments for Alzheimer’s is exercise because it helps reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to the brain.
2. Eat a Balanced Diet
A balanced diet is essential for memory function. Eating foods that are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and protect your brain from damage caused by free radicals. You should also consume lots of fruits and vegetables to get the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants your brain needs to work well. One nutrient, in particular, that is essential for memory and brain function is vitamin B12. Most people get plenty of B12 in their diets from animal products, but if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you can choose to take a supplement or simply add more foods rich in B12 to your diet, such as low-fat dairy products, fortified soy milk and fortified cereals.
3. Learn a New Skill or Language
Learning something new is an excellent way to keep your memory sharp. If you already know how to play an instrument or speak a second language, try learning something new, such as painting or knitting. Learning the basics helps stimulate the brain and form new pathways that will benefit your memory.
4. Reduce Stress Levels
Stress can be detrimental to your health in general, but stress hormone levels are particularly harmful to brain function because they increase inflammation and reduce blood flow to the brain. Studies have shown that severe chronic stress is associated with shrinkage of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for forming new memories.
5. Enlarge Your Social Circle Through Activities and Support Groups
As you get older, it’s important to maintain as many social contacts as possible. Make a point of engaging with new people at every chance, whether through your children’s school or community activities. The more you open yourself up to new relationships and experiences, the more opportunities for new memories you create. In addition, try to engage in activities that encourage social interaction, such as going out to lunch with a friend or joining a book club.
6. Support Your Brain With Supplements
Certain supplements can help you keep your memory sharp as you age. Antioxidants such as grape seed extract and vitamins B12 and E keep your brain cells healthy, while omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, flaxseed oil and walnuts improve the fluidity of cell membranes.
7. Get Plenty of Sleep
Studies link sleep deprivation to a decline in memory and cognitive function. Sleep periods are used to consolidate your day’s memories, so getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night is important.
8. Avoid Inactivity to Keep the Brain Firing on All Cylinders
Inactivity reduces mental stimulation, which can decrease brain cell connections that are critical for memory function. You don’t have to run a marathon every day, but try to stay active in some way by taking regular walks or doing simple exercises like lifting weights at home.
As you can see, menopausal memory loss is not a death sentence for you. Practical and basic actions are within your reach to ensure you stay sharp and vibrant. Contact your doctor if you want more specialized help, and they will find the best strategy for you.