We’ve all had memory lapses at one time or another, but there is definitely a link between brain power and hormonal fluctuations. During perimenopause there are a few things happening to your body that may cause forgetfulness. For one, there’s an aging process going on. The older we get the more short-term memory we lose. Other menopausal symptoms such as insomnia and fatigue can cause memory problems.
Evidence also suggests that estrogen affects the brain chemistry and structure that’s involved in memory, and that the loss of estrogen associated with menopause may be largely responsible for memory decline. Estrogen may be needed to transfer nerve messages to specific regions in the brain. And the hormone may also be important in preventing blood clots in the brain, which can cause oxygen deprivation and loss of brain tissue.
MEMORY PROBLEMS for Perimenopause Photo Gallery
More than 75 percent of women will experience some change to their monthly cycle. A number of years before her last period, a woman may notice that her cycles become less frequent or closer together. And often a woman’s period shortens in duration as estrogen production fluctuates and ovulation occurs less often. While an erratic menstrual cycle can be annoying, what’s more distressing is heavy bleeding that can occur with your period.
Heavy bleeding is usually caused by an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone. When ovulation does not occur and your ovaries don’t release an egg, progesterone is not produced. This means that estrogen is allowed to continue to build up the uterine lining. The lining becomes very thick and releases a lot of blood when it sheds in response to a drop in your estrogen levels. As your estrogen levels decline with approaching menopause, heavy bleeding will become less of an issue.
In some cases, heavy bleeding can be the sign of something else going on in the uterus: polyps, a fibroid or, less commonly, cancer. You should always alert your gynecologist if your periods last more than seven days, if you bleed between your periods or if your menstrual flow becomes much heavier than usual.
If heavy flow has plagued you for some time and your energy level is dragging, ask your family doctor to measure your iron level. Your hemoglobin level measures circulating iron in red blood cells, and your ferritin level measures the amount of iron stored in your liver, spleen and bone marrow. A blood test will determine if you have an iron deficiency and may indicate the need for single iron supplements.
Who’s at Risk?
Perimenopausal symptoms can affect women ten years before menopause, when hormonal changes kick in. Today in America almost 30 million women are between the ages of 40 and 54, the phase of life when levels of certain hormones are changing and dwindling. While perimenopause can start in a woman’s late thirties, most women begin noticing symptoms in their forties.
Not all women experience uncomfortable symptoms associated with perimenopause. Although research is lacking in this area, there are a few factors that might increase your risk for suffering one or more of the side effects of midlife hormonal fluctuations. Ask yourself the following questions:
• Are you in your mid to late forties?
• Did your mother experience any perimenopausal symptoms?
• Do you suffer from nasty premenstrual symptoms, especially mood swings?
• Do you eat a diet that’s high in animal fat and lacking fruits, vegetables and fiber?
• Do you drink too much alcohol and coffee?
• Is your life full of stress and tension?
• Do you lack adequate sleep on a regular basis?
• Do you lack regular exercise?