As a woman enters the menopausal stage, she deals with so many concerns with her physical, mental, emotional and psychological being. Every woman is beautiful at every age; however, women approaching or past menopausal stage are prone to depression because they experience certain changes that could be extremely overwhelming for them. And it is not always the superficial aspects - women worry about so many other aging concerns aside from their physical appearance.
Menopause is a natural biological process to every woman. It happens when the ovaries age and start to produce lesser and lesser hormones. Women in their 40s may notice decline in the frequency of their menstrual period. In the US, the median age of women going through menopause is 51 years old.
This menopausal stage occurs in women at different ages. It is largely dictated by the women’s genes, medical history and reproductive system condition. It could start as early as the 40th year of a woman or as late as the 55th year.
The indicator of menopause is when a woman has not had a period for one year. However, collective clinical researchers have found out that symptoms and changes in a woman’s body can start several years earlier and several years after.
These are some known symptoms of menopause:
- Change in menstrual period (could be in the frequency or the quantity)
- Night sweats also known as hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Less hair on head, more on face
- Mood swings
- Trouble focusing or foggy brain
It has been reported that 60% of women in this age group find it difficult to concentrate and experience other issues with cognition and comprehension. So if you are worried about having episodes of mental blocks, forgetfulness, memory loss and cloudy or foggy brain, well you are not alone.
Is foggy brain even true?
One research study gave 200 women standard tests to gauge their memory skills. Doctors monitored them with functional MRI scans to track their brain activity during the test. The study found that women who did not do well on the memory tests are women with lower levels of estradiol. Estradiol is a form of estrogen produced by the ovaries.
So how is this related to menopause? The decline of a women’s reproductive health also means that there is a decline in the production of hormones by the ovaries. Estrogen levels start to decrease during perimenopause (years prior to the actual start of menopause) and could also reach a lower point until postmenopausal stage.
Some women are more sensitive to falling estrogen levels than other women in menopausal stage. So if you have been feeling low because you thought you are no longer sharp as you used to be, it is not really you, it is your hormones; hence, you can say that menopause is the culprit.
But the great news is that, this is but temporary. As you go along the transition, the changes in your physical and mental health conditions would eventually get better. And better news is that you can counter these menopausal symptoms with these helpful tips:
Sleeplessness is another known symptom of menopause and is also a great contributor to slow responses of the brain. But researchers encourage women to try their best to have at least 7-8 hours of restful sound sleep every day.
When this sleeping pattern was followed, reports found that there was a 30% decrease in brain fog symptoms; also in hot flashes and depression. Adults in general need good quality sleep to maintain a positive mood and stay mentally sharp.
Here is how you can improve your sleep:
- Skip eating a large meal before you go to bed. Avoid spicy or acidic foods during dinner because they could cause hot flashes in the middle of the night.
- Avoid food with ingredients of stimulants like caffeine and nicotine. Alcohol may seem a relaxant to other people but researchers say that alcohol disturbs deep sleep.
- Dress for success. Don’t wear heavy clothing or pile on lots of blankets in bed. Turning down the thermostat or using a fan may help keep you cool.
- Have a bedtime ritual that you constantly and consistently follow each night. Taking a warm bath or shower before bedtime is found to help promote deeper sleep. Reading a book or listening to relaxing music also works for others.
- Maintain your bedtime and wake time as consistent as possible. Try your best not to break the habit.
- Set up your bedroom as dark, quiet, comfortable, and as cool as possible.
Be physically fit through exercise.
Several studies show the effect of regular exercise in the growth of new nerve cells and blood vessels in the brain. Physical activities increase the production of body chemicals capable of repairing existing brain cells and promoting the growth of new ones.
Make exercising part of your daily routine. Form a habit and avoid skipping this activity each day. In maintaining physical and mental fitness, consistency is very vital. You can only maximize the positive effects of exercise if it is done regularly and properly.
Here are suggested exercises you can practice:
- Cardiovascular exercise is recommended at least 30 minutes a day in a week. This could include walking, jogging, running, cycling, aerobics and water aerobics.
- Weight lifting is also healthy twice a week. You may need a professional fitness instructor’s help to see which routine is best for your current physical condition.
Maintain a healthy diet.
Indeed, you are what you eat. To control what’s inside your body, you must be watchful of what you take in to your system. When thinking of what to eat, think of what you will feed not only your body but also your mind.
Follow these healthy diet tips:
- Keep your diet high in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and fat. Choose whole foods and healthy fats.
- Practice the Mediterranean diet which is best for brain health as several researches suggested. Mediterranean diet is typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nut and seeds, and olive oil. Take food rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other unsaturated fats like salmon, mackerel and other cold-water fishes.
- Do not forget your greens. Folic acid, found in leafy green vegetables and in other foods like orange juice, is vital for proper brain function.
- Red wine if taken only twice a week may also help. Red wine is packed with resveratrol that keeps free radicals from damaging brain cells. But always remember not to overdrink.
- If you do not drink alcoholic drinks, turmeric tea is also packed with antioxidants.
Increase brain activities through mental activities.
Especially after retirement, adult’s physical and mental activities decrease. Try to keep your usual tasks as much as possible. Do not stop your regular activities just because of your current condition. Just as your body needs physical exercise, your brain requires regular workouts as well. Just like car engines, if unused will get rusty, so as someone’s brain functions.
- Talk to people and don’t miss an opportunity to get to know strangers.
- Try doing crossword puzzles, read the morning paper, do things that will require your brain to work.
- Start and learn a new hobby or skill.
- Organize your tasks listing down or taking notes.
When we are stressed, our body releases the hormone cortisol. This chemical, as researched by scientists, affects and damages the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Thus, anyone who is stressed may experience a foggy brain.
There could be many stressors around you as of the moment. Maybe caring for the sick and elderly, retiring concerns, work, and other things can increase your stress level and be the cause of your attention issues. Chronic stress can cause other health issues like high blood pressure, weak immune system, and depression.
Find a way to de-stress. Mindful meditation and yoga are proven to be effective in decreasing stress levels. Meditation is practice of focused concentration. It allows you to have more time with yourself pondering on your own thoughts and decisions. It can reduce anxiety, chronic pain, depression, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Here’s a helpful tip on how to start meditating:
- Sit or lie down on a comfortable mat.
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe naturally. Do not pay attention to anything else.
- Focus your attention on your breathing and on how your body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
- Simply focus your attention on your breathing without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breathing.
- Practice this routine until you are able to maintain the focus. Then you can start in creating a mantra, a prayer or reflection.
Keep in mind that it is temporary.
Hang in there lady, this won't last forever. Like any other transition phase, this too shall pass. In a research that studied 2,362 American women for four years, the decline in their memory and learning ability which marked the start of menopausal transition all improved after the phase. Thus, related cognitive difficulties brought by the transition to menopause are time-limited.
So if you are feeling lost and messy for the longest time, there is a rainbow after this life stage. Don’t feel bad about having these symptoms as they will eventually get better if not disappear.
The key is for every woman to be proactive in knowing their current condition and finding the solution to improve the symptoms of menopause. Doctors may prescribe hormone therapy to battle symptoms of menopause. It is highly recommended to speak to your primary care physician to help you through this trying stage.