For many women going through menopause, memory lapses can be one of the most unsettling symptoms. This can lead to many misconceptions, such as the belief memory lapses are indicative of a more serious issue. Memory lapses, however, are typically due to hormone fluctuations that occur during menopause and are rarely a cause for concern. Learn more about what memory lapses are, what causes them, and the treatment options available.
About Memory Lapses
Memory is defined as the mental capacity or faculty of retaining or recalling facts, events, impressions, or previous experiences. Memory lapses, then, are fleeting periods when a person loses the mental capacity or faculty of retaining or recalling information.
Two types of memory are affected in women who experience memory lapses: short-term memory and recent memory.
Women who suffer from memory lapses typically report that they have "brain fog" when trying to remember where they left their reading glasses, for example. Recollections of names, dates, and addresses can also elude a woman experiencing memory lapses during menopause, especially when she just received that information.
Types of memory
Memory is often simplified into only two categories: short- and long-term memory. In fact, there are several types that comprise the extremely complex function of memory. The different types of memory shown below will give a better idea of the different functions memory serves.
The ability to remember information for brief moments, such as a telephone number for the time it takes to dial it.
The ability to recall day-to-day events, involved in learning new information.
The ability to recognize smells, sounds, and sights.
Also known as remote memory, long-term memory deals with the more distant past.
The ability to remember the meaning of words, facts, and a generalized knowledge of the world.
The ability to remember motor skills - knowing how to do things - such as how to walk, ride a bike, and eat.
Symptoms of memory lapses
The primary symptom of memory lapses is the inability to recall information at will, but there are other secondary symptoms of memory lapses as well.
- Trouble concentrating
- Forgetting a recent event and remembering it later
- "Fuzzy" thinking
Once a woman is able to recognize that she is having memory lapses, it can be extremely useful to learn about how and why they happen.
Perimenopause is a time of numerous changes for a woman, and some of these changes can't be seen, like memory loss. Caused primarily by hormonal imbalances, memory issues commonly afflict menopausal women, and these affect concentration, attention span, and the ability to absorb new information.
While alcohol is an important cultural staple for many people, or just an enjoyable drink for others, it has a number of unhealthy and unpleasant side effects. Click the following link to learn more about how alcohol consumption can harm your body and impair your memory.
Causes of Memory Lapses
Several factors can be the reason behind memory lapses in menopausal women.
Like many other menopause symptoms, memory lapses are caused largely by hormonal imbalance. Memory lapses can also be a compound of other menopause symptoms that affect a woman's concentration level and mental retention.
Memory lapses are a common occurrence for women experiencing perimenopause. As a woman approaches menopause, levels of certain hormones in the body decrease. These diminishing levels, particularly of estrogen, have myriad effects on a woman's body and mind.
In the case of memory lapses, estrogen plays a special key role. It has a large effect on the functions of the brain and influences language skills, mood, attention, and a number of other functions, including memory. Estrogen is directly linked to verbal word fluency, or the ability to remember names and words. It's no wonder, then, that as a woman's estrogen levels begin to drop, her memory may suffer.
Although hormone fluctuations are the most common cause of memory lapses in menopausal women, other risk factors can trigger this symptom as well, including:
- Excessive amounts of alcohol
- Some medications (e.g., sleeping pills, antidepressants, blood pressure and heart medications, painkillers, tranquilizers)
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Poor diet
- Lack of sleep
- Excessive workload
When to see a doctor
If a woman is experiencing severe memory lapses, where she finds it difficult to recall information she has known for years and routinely used, she should consult a doctor to be checked for the following disorders associated with memory lapses:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Infections of the brain, such as encephalitis or meningitis
- Head trauma
- Multi-infarct dementia
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
Fortunately, at whatever level a woman is experiencing memory lapses, there are solutions.
Click on the following link to learn more about the causes of memory lapses during menopause, or continue reading below to learn more about the treatment options.
It's no secret that many long-term medications come with side effects. Often, these side effects are manageable or minor compared to the improvement of the condition the medication is treating. However, memory lapses may get in the way; memory issues can affect professional performance, personal relationships, and well-being.
As a woman approaches menopause, various changes take place in the body that can cause short term memory loss known as brain fogs. Brain fogs may make it difficult to concentrate and process new information. Though hormones are the primary cause of menopausal memory lapses, other biological, dietary, and environmental factors influence the symptom, too.
Memory Lapses Treatments
Fortunately, most of the time, memory lapses are not a condition that a woman must live with permanently; treatments are available. It is recommended to begin with the least invasive method and progress up to more drastic treatments if the symptom remains unaffected.
Modifications in habit can be implemented into a woman's life, such as dietary adjustments or a different exercise program. A balanced diet including additions such as omega-3 fatty acids can help a woman to concentrate.
In addition, a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables is important in order to obtain memory-boosting antioxidants and the vitamins B, C, D and E, all of which are important for proper mental function. Mental exercises and games, such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku, have been shown to improve memory. Exercise and proper sleep also go a long way in helping with memory.
As the primary cause of memory lapses in menopausal women is a decrease in estrogen levels, generally the best way to manage this symptom is to address the fundamental hormonal imbalance. Natural supplements can be a safe and effective treatment option.
There is a third option if the recommended combination of lifestyle changes and natural remedies is not effective enough. Pharmaceutical options to treat memory lapses exist, though these carry a higher risk of side effects. If memory lapses are so severe that a woman is considering these options, she should consult a trusted medical professional to better understand the potential benefits and risks involved.
Click on the following link to learn more specifics about the treatments for memory lapses, which begin with lifestyle changes, move onto alternative medicines, and finally, if those options do not work, medications.
Menopausal brain fogs are a very real symptom of menopause that - like with other menopause symptoms - can be treated with practical activities and specific lifestyle changes. There are many easy and enjoyable ways to strengthen the cognitive functions and improve memory during perimenopause to prevent the symptom from undermining your confidence.
Women often notice lapses in their memory as they approach menopause. Less identifiable than memory loss diseases such as dementia, where incidents of forgetfulness tend to be specific, menopausal "brain fog" refers to day-to-day difficulties with processing, storing, and retrieving new information. Learn more about how to deal with memory lapses during menopause
- Colcombe, S.J. et al. (2006). Aerobic exercise training increases brain volume in aging humans. The journals of gerontology, 61(11), 1166-1170. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17167157
- Food and Drug Administration. (2010). Coping with Memory loss. Retrieved April 20, 2016, from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm107783.htm
- Henderson, V.W. (2008). Cognitive Changes after Menopause: Influence of Estrogen. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 51(3), 614-626. doi: 10.1097/GRF.0b013e318180ba10
- Greendale, G.A. , Derby, C.A. & Maki, P.M. (2012). Perimenopause and Cognition. Obstetrics and gynecology clinics of North America, 38(3), 519-535. doi: 10.1016/j.ogc.2011.05.007
- Kulzow, N. et al. (2016). Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation on Memory Functions in Healthy Older Adults. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 51(3), 713-725. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150886
- Uchida, S. & Kawashima, R. (2008). Reading and solving mental arithmetic problems improves cognitive functions of normal aged people: a randomized controlled study. Age, 30(1), 21-29. doi: 10.1007/s11357-007-9044-x
Should I Read More to Prevent Memory Loss?
Menopausal memory loss is a symptom that's best prevented and combated with brain-stimulating activities. Activities that require prolonged engagement and concentration will strengthen the cognitive functions and improve short-term memory. Reading more can be a challenge, due to the nature of memory loss, but it is a great way to do this.
5 Habits That Could Be Affecting Your Memory
The memory loss episodes known as brain fogs that occur during menopause are primarily caused by hormonal imbalances, but your lifestyle can trigger or worsen memory issues, too. Many women are unaware of how their diet and other habits might affect the way their brain processes, stores, and retrieves information.
Talking to Your Partner about Memory Lapses
Menopausal memory lapses do not exhibit visible physical symptoms, so many women tend to dismiss "brain fogs" as imaginary or unimportant. However, the effects of menopausal memory loss can put strain on relationships, and attempting to mask your struggles will worsen this; it's important to gain your partner's support by openly discussing menopausal memory problems.
Does Memory Loss Cause Depression?
Menopausal short-term memory loss can have a number of disheartening effects, including difficulty concentrating, absentmindedness, and trouble processing or recalling new information. When this negatively impacts a woman's well-being or her lifestyle, the symptom inevitably has emotional effects that may cause or contribute to depression.
Memory Lapses as a Menopause Symptom
Memory lapses happen to most people once in a while and can include simple things. However, when memory lapses begin to noticeably hinder a woman's ability to perform everyday tasks, it is something that should be looked into more closely. Learn more about the different treatment options for menopausal memory lapses.