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Q&A: Why am I Finding it Hard to Concentrate During Menopause?

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Are you finding it hard to concentrate now that you have entered the transitional period between your reproductive and non-reproductive years? Worry not, a lapse in concentration levels is normal during menopause and there are a number of reasonable explanations for why. Read on to have your questions about this menopausal symptom answered.

Why Am I Having Difficulty Concentrating?

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The general consensus is that, the majority of the time, it is an imbalance of hormones that causes your concentration levels to decrease unexpectedly. During menopause, the levels of estrogen in the body are severely disrupted. The ovaries are preparing for the drastic change within the body and therefore production of this hormone fluctuates. Estrogen plays a key role in the function of the brain, as well as the regulation of the sexual reproductive system, so when this hormone becomes imbalanced it can affect everyday mental performance.

In the brain there are a number of neurotransmitters which regulate cognitive functioning which includes concentration skills. Estrogen affects the production of these neurotransmitters and therefore a shortage of estrogen can lead to a decrease in cognitive function. As well as estrogen being vital for the production of the neurotransmitters, it also helps to control blood flow to the brain, another reason for poor concentration levels during menopause.

Other causes of difficulty concentrating include Alzheimer's disease, alcoholism, stress, anxiety, fatigue, and some medications, although these reasons are less common. You should see your doctor if you are concerned about your concentration levels.

What Are the Common Symptoms of a Lack of Concentration?

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Certain factors may trigger a headache which can impact upon concentration levels and worsen them further. If you suffer with headaches frequently there are a number of common triggers you should be sure to avoid. These include:

  • Excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine (although a quick withdrawal from these might also trigger headaches)

  • A lack of sleep or too much

  • Skipping meals or fasting

  • Bright lights, loud noises, or strong odors

  • Any emotional disorder like stress or anxiety

It is also advisable that you avoid, or cut down on, foods that contain high amounts of nitrates (hot dogs,fast food, Asian food,spicy food) and Tyramine (aged cheese, soy products, smoked fish, fava beans).

How Can I Tackle This Problem?

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Avoiding or controlling estrogen levels is key to regaining your concentration levels and fortunately there are ways to do this. Making changes to your lifestyle should be the first step you take. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Regular exercise can keep the mind sharp and keep hormone levels balanced.

Try to reduce your caffeine and alcohol intake because these substances both encourage artificial highs which won't improve your concentration levels on a long-term basis. You should also exercise your brain as regularly as you can and keep it mentally active.

Finally, make time to de-stress if you are feeling overworked, because stress hormones will only decrease estrogen levels further and make your concentration even worse. Only after trying these lifestyle changes should you consider alternative medications and treatments. See your doctor for the appropriate advice.

Recommendations

A lack of concentration can be disruptive to your lifestyle and extremely frustrating if it comes about suddenly, but there are treatments available. Exercise your body and exercise your mind and notice the difference. Get further advice from your doctor if you want to explore alternatives to lifestyle changes. Follow this link for more information on how to deal with difficulty concentrating.

How to Recognize a Lack of Concentration Due to Menopause

If you're having difficulty concentrating, you may wonder whether it's just a sign of aging. Learn more here.

Can Physical Activity Improve my Concentration?

Physical activity improves peoples' memory and concentration. This is especially significant for older adults at a higher risk of memory loss.

Sources:
  • Hutchinson, Susan M.D. "The Stages of a Woman's Life: Menstruation, Pregnancy, Nursing, Perimenopause, Menopause". November 2007.
  • Love, Susan M.D. Menopause and Hormone Book. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2003.
  • BMJ Group. "Menopause: What is it?" Patient Leaflet. 2007.