Brain fog was my first symptom of perimenopause. I was in my mid 40’s in the middle of a meeting when I lost my train of thought mid-sentence. This brain fog was not a one-off experience but rather continued to cloud my every day.
I was worried that I was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Either that or an alien had taken over my body, as I was no longer in control. Being out of control is a Virgo’s worst nightmare! My next symptom was insomnia. Of course, not sleeping only exacerbated my ability to focus and have clarity. I found out that when you combine brain fog with insomnia, it can result in a burst of tears while drying dishes after a dinner party at a friend’s house.
Lucky for me, my dear friend was a retired gynecologist. After I shared what I had been experiencing, he very calmly explained that I was in perimenopause. I found his diagnosis wholly unacceptable and, frankly, insulting! After all, I was sure that menopause happens when you are old. Very very old! I was NOT old! BTW WTF is perimenopause?
My dear friend proceeded to educate me on perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Clearly, I missed, “the talk”!!!! A few weeks later, I had an appointment with a Menopause Specialist who created an individual program to address my symptoms.
It is exciting to hear about any research on menopause and the brain. One thing that is consistent, all the research seems to validate what most menopausal women already know – there is a connection between menopause and the brain. Recently, researchers from Weill Cornell and the University of Arizona (my alma mater- go Wildcats!) took an in-depth look at brain changes in healthy women before and after menopause. The research shows:
Overall, according to Dr. Mosconi and her colleagues, the study shows how menopause reshapes the landscape of the female brain—and hints, at least, that this reshaping includes compensatory adaptations that maintain brain function despite the menopause-related drop in estrogen levels.
“Even though many women experience troublesome symptoms, from hot flashes to forgetfulness, menopause is a normal physiological event. Our study suggests that the brain has the ability to find a new “normal” after menopause, at least in most women,” said Dr. Mosconi. “We hope our findings will help overcome the stigma around menopause and encourage all women to take care of their brains during this transition.”
It is very reassuring to note that the brain can find a new normal after menopause. Hooray for this!
There was an earlier study from the University of Rochester Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago which showed that as menopausal women’s hormones fluctuate they may have trouble with working memory, as well as keeping themselves focused. You might also be interested in reading more about the effects of menopause and cognition from the SWAN study and The Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study.
Here is a tape of a Menopause Mondays® event on the TODAY show discussing these earlier studies on menopause and the brain:
Remember: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN.
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