Brain fog and menopause
During menopause and the time leading up to it (perimenopause), the hormonal changes your body goes through can cause many symptoms, including what’s often known as ‘brain fog’.
You may notice you become more forgetful, find it hard to concentrate when reading or talking to people, or repeatedly lose things. It isn’t known exactly how many people have brain fog during the perimenopause and menopause, but many people complain of memory problems at this time.
Fortunately, however, there are lifestyle changes and treatments that can help. So read on to learn more about the causes of and treatment options for menopause brain fog.
How does menopause affect your memory and concentration?
At the start of the perimenopause, your hormone levels begin to drop. And the hormones oestrogen and testosterone play important roles in how your brain works.
Oestrogen stimulates your brain and helps your brain cells use sugar (glucose) as fuel, while testosterone helps strengthen your nerves and your brain’s blood supply. So when your oestrogen and testosterone levels drop, it can cause memory loss and trouble concentrating.
Brain fog can happen at any time in the perimenopause and menopause. But studies suggest it may be worse during perimenopause and get better again after you’ve reached menopause (postmenopause).
When does menopause brain fog end?
Once the hormonal changes of the perimenopause and menopause have settled down, your symptoms will usually gradually improve. But some people find their symptoms last longer. If you have problems with memory or concentration postmenopause, talk to your doctor.
When to see a doctor
You should speak to a doctor if menopause symptoms such as brain fog are affecting your daily life. It’s also a good idea to see your doctor if you or your family have concerns about your memory.
There are some warning signs to look out for as, occasionally, confusion can be a sign of another medical issue, such as dementia.
Go to the emergency department if you’re confused and:
- it comes on very suddenly
- you’ve recently had a head injury
- you suddenly have a very bad headache
- you have difficulty speaking
- you have trouble walking, or moving your arms or legs
- you have weakness in your arms or legs
- you have problems with your vision
See a doctor as soon as possible if:
- your memory is putting your safety at risk: for example, you keep getting lost or leaving the gas on, or your driving is affected
- you feel low in mood or anxious
- you notice changes in your personality or behaviour
- you’re seeing or hearing things that other people can't (having hallucinations)
What’s the treatment for menopause memory loss?
For many people, menopause brain fog is mild and goes away on its own over time, so you won’t need treatment.
Lifestyle changes may also help ease your symptoms and improve your memory, including:
- taking regular exercise – this can improve your mental wellbeing, including memory. Aim for 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week, of activity such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling
- getting enough sleep – sleep problems or insomnia can make brain fog worse. Help yourself sleep better by limiting the amount of time you spend on computer screens or mobile phones before bed, keeping your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable, and avoiding heavy meals, caffeine or alcohol in the evenings
- eating polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as omega-3 and omega-6 – these are good for the brain and can be found in eggs, nuts, olive oil and oily fish
- making sure you get the right vitamins – vitamins A, C and E, found in fresh fruit and vegetables, are antioxidants and can help keep your brain cells working well
If brain fog or other menopause symptoms are difficult to cope with, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment option. This replaces the hormones you’ve lost and can reduce most menopausal symptoms. You should talk to your doctor about whether this is suitable for you.
Your health questions answered
How can I tell the difference between brain fog and dementia?Answered by: Dr Roger Henderson
The problems of cloudy thinking and being forgetful that you get with brain fog are different from the thought problems you can have with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. One of the main differences is that these conditions affect not only your memory, but also your ability to have a normal life. They also get worse over time. If you don’t feel able to do your usual work, household tasks or social activities, talk to your doctor, as it may be a sign of something other than menopause brain fog.
- brain fog is problems with memory and concentration that can happen during the perimenopause and menopause
- it’s common, and is linked to changing hormone levels in your body
- many people with brain fog don’t need medical treatment
- simple lifestyle changes can help reduce brain fog
- if needed, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be an effective treatment