Dazed and Confused for So Long, It's Now True

Brain drain means something completely different during menopause

Bouts of forgetfulness. 🤔

Feeling like your head is stuffed with cotton candy. 🍭

Searching for words that have slipped from your once-sharp memory. 🤷‍♀️

Is this all your imagination? Not at all. How do we know? Because we’ve been there — and we’ve read the science.

Like syrup and pancakes, COVID and masks, your period and tampons (remember those?), brain fog and menopause is real.

It’s more than just anecdotal evidence: Studies report that up to 60 percent of women go through what’s known as “menopause-related cognitive impairment.” That means that if you and your friend are sharing tales of menopause, there’s a good chance one of you will forget some details of that conversation later on. (Silver lining: There will always be something new to talk about! 😜)

Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago are on our side. Their studies reveal the cognitive changes occurring during the menopausal transition. So instead of blaming your forgetfulness on having a “jam-packed schedule,” you just can view your memory issues — as well as trouble focusing on challenging tasks — as par for the course.

Menopause “affects our brains big-time,” writes Dr. Lisa Mosconi in her book, The XX Brain. Dr. Mosconi, director of the Women’s Brain Initiative at Weill Cornell Medical College, says our brains are “an often-overlooked key factor to keep an eye on.” That’s because the hormonal changes that can bring drier skin, bone loss and hot flashes can also result in a lagging memory and increased risk of cognitive decline (a.k.a. brain fog).

Why doesn’t everyone get brain fog?

Researchers don’t know the answer — at least not exactly. They think it might be that some brains are resistant to the waning levels of estradiol. Or perhaps some brains are able to draw estrogen from sources other than ovaries (like maybe from body fat or by converting testosterone). Or it could be that some women’s brains are protected by the physical or mental exercises we do.

The good news is that the fog isn’t usually permanent — and mental clarity, for many, improves years into menopause.

The other good news? There are things we can do to help:

Stay hydrated. The brain is up to 80 percent water so even mild dehydration can trigger cognitive issues like brain fog, says Dr. Mosconi. She suggests drinking a glass of plain warm water when you first wake up. (Warm water is more hydrating than cold because it promotes absorption.) Bonus: it’ll kick-start your digestion too. A water bottle like this will help keep you accountable.

Repeat it. When you receive new information, repeat it out loud, or repeat it back to the person to confirm it. That can help you hang onto the information longer, giving it time to get planted into your brain.

Prioritize sleep. Aim for seven to nine hours each night. (Find our suggestions here.) Sleep deprivation can make your brain fuzzy and make it tough to concentrate and remember details throughout the day.

Get mindful. Meditation, yoga, walks in nature and stretching can all give your brain a rest and reset, making it more available to process new information. Any type of exercise can increase the flow of blood to your brain, and improve your memory and reaction time.

Get your nutrients. Not eating enough, or eating the wrong foods, can hamper your focus. For instance, unhealthy snacks or fast food is devoid of energy-boosting nutrients you need to feed your brain for peak performance. (Concentrate on brain-friendly foods like whole grains, nuts, lean proteins and fresh produce.)

Take a break. When you’re involved in a big project, it can be tough to pull yourself away. But if you lose concentration, what’s the point of carrying on? A short break can help clear the fog and return with improved productivity.

Manage stress. For soooo many reasons, we should do this. But it’s a must for our brains. That’s because stress can be mentally exhausting, stealing your focus from your everyday tasks.

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For a Pause

  1. Forgot your hand sanitizer…again? These little cuties from Olika clip right to your bag, so you never have to be without. They’re colorful and hydrating, which is a win-win in our book.

  2. If meditation and yoga are not in your “best ways to stay mindful” vocabulary, why not try some other things like jigsaw puzzles, Lego sets, drawing, knitting, or other pandemic pastimes? Mentally and physically, you’re good to go.

  3. How in the world is a candy cane, caramel snickerdoodle or custard apple associated with good health? When they’re part of a tea blend, like these from Plum Deluxe Teas. #tasty

  4. One short break will do you wonders when your brain threatens to run on empty. If you need inspiration, here are 20 “counter-intuitive brain breaks” to try.

One More Thing

Talk about being yourself — and blossoming in midlife: “There’s no ‘g’ on the end of livin’ because life is a verb.” — Matthew McConaughey on his approach to life in his book, Greenlights.

Until next week, stay well. Stay healthy. Stay safe.

See you next time!


Don't know where you're goin'
Only know just where you've been
Dazed and Confused, Led Zeppelin

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