Where did I leave my keys? What’s their name again? I know I walked in here for a reason… Brain fog is a common menopause symptom that can be frustrating for many women. It can cause issues remembering things, difficulty concentrating, and confusion. An estimated 60% of women experience brain fog during menopause. However, HRT may be able to help reduce brain fog and help you feel more like yourself. Let’s talk about why hormones might affect your brain.
Brain fog is a serious issue for many women. Some women experience mild symptoms and some won’t experience it at all. However, others may start to notice it interferes with their lives. Brain fog can be frustrating and isolating for many women during menopause. Some may even be alarmed and wonder if they’re showing early signs of dementia when brain fog is particularly bad. Brain fog has been associated with the menopause transition, which has led many researchers to consider whether hormones play a part in brain fog. Some studies are also looking at whether hormone therapy can help improve brain fog symptoms.
Brain fog is different from memory changes that come with normal aging. Most people will experience forgetfulness and other cognitive changes as our bodies and brains change with age. These changes, much like normal aging, can come on gradually.
Brain fog, on the other hand, often happens suddenly with the beginning of perimenopause. Most women describe it as an increase in forgetfulness, whether forgetting someone’s name, why you walked into a room, or the password to your phone. Several studies have found that women during menopause score lower on tests for:
Brain fog may be to blame for these lower cognitive scores. With brain fog, you might notice it begins around the time of perimenopause and symptoms can continue into early menopause. The good news is that brain fog typically isn’t permanent and most women notice the symptoms fade away after some time. However, they may still deal with frustrating symptoms for several years, much like other menopause symptoms such as hot flashes. Depending on your symptoms and overall health, our providers may recommend HRT to help with perimenopause and menopause.
So, what does menopause have to do with brain fog? It turns out, quite a lot.
First of all, menopause can cause a whole host of symptoms, some of which can affect our brains. For example, night sweats can hinder normal sleep. Lack of sleep can make it feel like you’re walking through a fog and can affect your cognition. Mood changes, depression, and anxiety can all also affect your memory and attention.
However, researchers have found that there may be more at play than sleep and mood disturbances when it comes to menopausal brain fog. During menopause, our hormones start to fluctuate and decline, leading up to our very last period. Estrogen is one of the main hormones involved in this process. Some researchers believe decreasing estrogen levels may have an impact on memory and learning, which might explain why many women experience brain fog during menopause.
Most of us associate estrogen with things like periods, puberty, and pregnancy. However, this important female hormone may also help our brains. Some researchers believe that estrogen can also help with memory and cognition. For instance, researchers have noticed that female mice notice major declines in memory when they lose estrogen. However, when that estrogen is replaced, mice in studies often improve. Therefore, there may be a link between estrogen and memory. This may also mean that HRT may help fight brain fog during menopause.
One potential explanation of why estrogen may affect memory is that it might affect the hippocampus. Estrogen may influence many functions of the hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory formation and learning.
We have known for a while that estrogen is neuroprotective. In other words, it helps protect nerve endings. Therefore, estrogen may help protect the hippocampus from damage. In turn, this might help protect against brain fog and cognitive decline.
Also, there may be several other ways estrogen can affect the hippocampus. Researchers are still studying the effects of estrogen on the brain and hippocampus. However, what they have found is that estrogen may help increase the number of spines in the brain. Spines branch off of nerve cells in the brain and are essentially how brain cells communicate with each other. So, estrogen may help improve communication between brain cells in the hippocampus, which may also assist with memory.
Estrogen replacement is often used as a form of menopause treatment. The idea is to help replace the estrogen that’s lost during menopause. This can help relieve some of the unpleasant and frustrating symptoms of menopause.
Some researchers theorize that if estrogen affects the hippocampus and other parts of the brain, then HRT may also help with brain fog. This may be due to estrogen reaching the receptors in the brain. Also, if brain fog is due to things like fatigue or mood changes, then estrogen may help reduce these symptoms which, in turn, helps reduce brain fog. For example, hormone therapy can help relieve night sweats that keep many women up at night and can cause foggy, tired thinking.
So, if you’re dealing with brain fog and other menopause symptoms, talk to one of our providers. You’re not alone, and there are many treatments available that may help you feel better. In addition to menopausal hormone replacement therapy, we can also help you design a treatment plan that includes lifestyle changes like diet and exercise to help you address and relieve your symptoms.
Looking for quality health care from a caring team of doctors and health professionals? Our team at HerKare is here for you. We offer quality women’s health care at every stage of life. Whether you’re dealing with brain fog from menopause or need well woman care, we are here for you. We believe in empowering women to address their health by listening to your concerns and providing quality care to help. Book an appointment at one of our convenient locations today and let’s talk about your wellbeing.