Do you have menopause brain? An astonishing 60% of
women in perimenopause and menopause answer “yes” to that question — and they’re
scared. They’re struggling with fuzzy thinking, poor focus and unsettling memory
problems that make life harder every day.
A majority of women in menopause say their brain function has changed. They can’t
concentrate at work, or remember simple, everyday details, like grocery lists or
family conversations. They’re anxious and worried that something serious is going
Is it the aging process? Sudden ADHD? Or — is dementia beginning to take hold?
Science shows that menopause brain and memory issues — especially if they’re new
symptoms — are often tightly tied to sex hormone fluctuations during the transition
into menopause. These hormonal ups and downs can actually change your brain’s physical
structure for a period of time, so your thinking, memory and focus are much different
from what you’re used to.
But research also proves that, by working to rebalance your reproductive hormones,
you can help restore your mental sharpness and ability to concentrate.
How hormonal fluctuations can cause menopause brain
Fluctuations in reproductive hormones can have a deep impact on the brain, especially
during the two years before your last period, and the two years after, which is
what is known as
post menopause. These are the same dramatic hormonal shifts that cause classic
menopause symptoms, including hot flashes.
Hot flashes and cognitive changes in perimenopause have something in common. Research
shows that women who have lots of hot flashes during perimenopause also undergo
ischemic — or blood flow restricting — changes that can affect their thinking. Declining
estrogen at midlife also directly affects the function of the major brain “feel-good”
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter so it has other jobs in the brain, including its
key role in regulating memory and learning. Estrogen-related shifts in serotonin
levels can make it harder for women in perimenopause to learn new things as estrogen
begins decreasing. That can make it harder to keep up at work or to learn new hobbies
and other engaging activities.
Estrogen, progesterone and brain function
Changing estrogen levels at perimenopause can affect the way your whole body works.
Before perimenopause, estrogen helps regulate blood flow to your brain, enhancing
your cognition and memory. You have estrogen receptors throughout your body and
brain, so when estrogen fluctuates at midlife, it can alter how you think, and feel.
When estrogen decreases, it changes the ratio of estrogen-to-progesterone, another
important reproductive hormone that declines during perimenopause. This shift can
cause a shortage of several other brain neurotransmitters, leading to difficulty
concentrating and lapses in memory. Low progesterone also directly contributes to
poor memory and concentration difficulties.
The first year after menopause is particularly hard on cognition. That’s when women
feel the most forgetful, often having trouble with word recall and verbal function.
Sometimes they can’t express themselves clearly and may even notice their fine motor
Help clear menopause brain by balancing your hormones
Women in perimenopause and menopause can get so discouraged about their memory and
concentration skills that they immediately assume the worst. But there is light
at the end of the hormonal tunnel!
Eventually estrogen fluctuations tend to taper off in the two years following your
This is good news because low estrogen alone does not cause menopause brain, foggy
thinking and other cognitive symptoms. These symptoms are not just an inevitable
part of getting older, and they don’t mean your days of feeling mentally sharp and
focused are behind you.
It isn’t magical thinking to believe you can recover your mental clarity and improve
your memory in menopause. Research clearly shows you can strengthen both memory
and focus, and feel better about your brain function by helping your body find new
Clear your menopause brain, fuzzy thinking and memory issues by taking these four
Practice living in the moment.
Staying present throughout your day can improve your working memory and stop your
mind from wandering. Become more mindful when you’re doing simple things like washing
the dishes. Observe each phase of the process and focus on exactly what you’re doing.
If you start to ruminate, gently and lovingly bring your attention back to the task
Take a walk, run a mile.
Exercise is the secret to physical health, and that includes brain fitness. Physical
movement helps deliver neurochemicals to the places in your brain that regulate
memory, including those affected by fluctuating hormone levels.
Diet and supplement tricks:
Add targeted herbal extracts.
Phytotherapies for menopause are easy to take and can help restore healthy
ratios between your reproductive hormones. These plant-based supplements are safer
and more natural than HRT and many women report significant improvements. Look for
black cohosh, wild yam, red clover, evening primrose or soy.
Eat right for mental sharpness.
Your brain must have a strong, steady supply of
vitamins B, C, D and omega-3 fatty acids to prevent shrinkage and other
abnormalities. And if you’re serious about improving your brain and memory, watch
out for trans fats in snack foods. They’re in frozen biscuits and pizza, cake mixes
and microwave popcorn. Eat fresh as often as you can. And keep sugar intake low,
since blood sugar swings drain necessary fuel your brain needs for thinking and
If you’re feeling forgetful and foggy, it’s not your imagination. Something is definitely
going on. You can have better memory, focus and cognition by working with your body
to rebalance your reproductive hormones. You and your brain will be happier and
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