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Brain Fog

Brain Fog in Women during menopause

You pick up your phone to make a call and you don’t remember who you were calling. Someone approaches you at work or at a party, and you don’t remember their name. You look everywhere for your sunglasses, not realizing they’re on the top of your head.

These little cognitive lapses can be something to laugh about — but inside, you might find yourself worrying. What’s happening to your memory? What’s the reason for this brain fog that seems to plague you suddenly?

If you’re a woman in your 40s or 50s, there could be a very real physical answer to your concerns. Memory and cognitive issues associated with menopause and perimenopause are very real. Keep reading to learn what’s at the heart of brain fog, whether you should be concerned, and what you can do about it.

The Symptoms of Brain Fog

The anecdotal symptoms of brain fog may be ones you’re already familiar with. You can’t find the right word during conversation (or it seems to take forever, and you can almost feel your brain searching its files). You forget names. You can’t seem to concentrate on a task at work, and you make mistakes because you forget important details. You can’t pay attention or stay focused, and it feels as if you’re fighting your way through haze as you try to think.

You’re not imagining things. Women during menopause often test poorly on various cognitive skills, including verbal fluency (coming up with the right word), verbal memory (remembering new words), motor function, attention and the ability to concentrate, and other working memory tasks.

The Causes of Brain Fog

The hormonal changes that prompt perimenopause and menopause appear to be at the root of the brain fog that many women experience in their 40s and 50s. That’s because several hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone are all involved with cognitive processes.

Estrogen, in particular, is involved with brain growth and neuroplasticity. It encourages brain cells to burn glucose, which is the energy the brain uses. Its effect on the brain is also tied up with the other, more well-known symptoms of menopause. For example, the hypothalamus is triggered by estrogen to regulate body temperature. Failure of estrogen to activate the hypothalamus is the cause of hot flashes.

During perimenopause, your body’s production of progesterone and estradiol, which is a type of estrogen, starts to decline. Estradiol is linked to thinking and memory, and its reduction and loss appear to contribute to brain fog. Estrogen also affects the amygdala, the part of the brain that handles memory functions. Without sufficient estrogen, forgetfulness occurs.

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What Can You Do to Lift Brain Fog?

While there are some steps you can take to minimize brain fog’s effects on your everyday life, many women find that treating the cause of menopause’s cognitive symptoms may be the most effective route.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Studies show that lifelong exposure to estrogen can help protect the brain against cognitive loss. That exposure might come from taking oral contraceptives or having children, and it may also come from hormone replacement therapy.

Hormone replacement therapy provides supplemental doses of estrogen or estrogen combined with progestin during the menopausal years. Most women who turn to hormone replacement therapy do so because of the calming effect it has on other notable symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, insomnia, night sweats and vaginal atrophy. It can also help with memory loss and other loss of cognitive function.

Lifestyle Changes

You can take some steps in your daily life to help lift the brain fog that’s plaguing you. Try some of these helpful actions in addition to exploring hormone replacement therapy.

Slow Down and De-stress

Whenever you realize you’re distracted or not concentrating, stop what you’re doing and take a moment to just breathe. The break will help your brain refocus and process what’s going on. Meditation or meditative yoga has been proven to improve visual-spatial memory and verbal memory, and other mindfulness techniques are also helpful.

Get Some Sleep

The decline in estrogen at menopause often results in insomnia and sleep disturbances — which in turn can add to your brain fog. Prioritize good sleep hygiene by keeping your bedroom cool and avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before bed. Spicy and acidic foods can trigger poor sleep, as can large meals too close to bedtime. Step away from your electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime as well, and try to go to bed at the same time each night.

Get Some Exercise

Obviously, exercise is good for your body. But did you know it’s also good for your brain? Moderate exercise three times a week benefits the hippocampus, which is one part of your brain responsible for learning and memory. Exercise also helps reduce hot flashes, and women who exercise in middle age are less likely to develop dementia later.

Eat a Healthy Diet

If you eat a diet rich in fat and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, you’re not doing your brain any favors. Instead, fill your plate with fish, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, and fresh veggies and fruit. Many of the foods you may add to your diet, including dried fruits, legumes, sesame seeds and flaxseed, actually are rich in plant estrogen.

Exercise Your Mind

Whether you take time out of your busy day to practice the piano or do a crossword puzzle, exercising your brain can help push back the fog. You can also hone your memory by repeating instructions to yourself out loud or by making to-do lists.

Watch Your Overall Health

If you struggle with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, now is the time to get them under control through lifestyle changes or medication. If you smoke, get the help you need to quit. And don’t overdo it with your alcohol intake.

Would you like to learn more?

Feel free to call us or take our short women's health questionnaire.

Menopause Brain Fog

More questions about Brain Fog?

We have answers

When you think of menopause symptoms, hot flashes and night sweats probably come to mind immediately. But about 60% of women in the United States also report forgetfulness, memory lapses and a general sense of “brain fog” as something they experience during menopause.

Menopause is triggered when the ovaries stop producing eggs — but many of the symptoms of menopause actually occur in the brain. Many women experience depression, anxiety and mood swings during menopause, as well as sleep disturbances and insomnia. Brain fog, with its related cognitive symptoms of difficulty concentrating and making decisions, along with bouts of dizziness, also spike during menopause and perimenopause.

Women who are at risk for osteoporosis may find hormone therapy especially effective, especially if they can’t tolerate other treatments for bone loss, such as biophosphonates. In addition, women who have an estrogen deficiency are helped by hormone replacement therapy. These include women who have experienced early menopause, those with primary ovarian insufficiency and women who have had their ovaries removed.

However, hormone replacement therapy isn’t for everyone. Women with the following conditions should avoid hormone therapy in most cases:

  • Blood clots
  • Heart disease or previous heart attack
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Pregnancy (known or suspected)
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Liver disease
  • Breast, ovarian or endometrial/uterine cancer
  • Stroke

In addition, many doctors recommend that women quit smoking before they embark on hormone replacement therapy.

Some people question whether brain fog is a real symptom of menopause. Yes, it is. Studies show that women do experience memory and cognitive issues during the menopausal years. Women with lower levels of estradiol show greater issues with memory and worse performance on lab tests of brain activity.

Some women get worried that the cognitive symptoms they experience during menopause may be long-lasting. However, it appears that the brain fog associated with menopause is temporary, with memory becoming stronger after menopause.

The loss of estrogen that occurs during menopause may also play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Early menopause has certainly been associated clinically with an increased risk of dementia. However, while the loss of estradiol is a concern, and while some of the cognitive symptoms of menopause overlap with those of dementia, early-onset dementia is actually very rare. Especially if you are experiencing other menopausal symptoms, you should probably not be worried that your cognitive difficulties are a sign of dementia in your 40s and 50s.

If you’re experiencing random brain fog here or there, you probably have nothing to be concerned about. But if your memory lapses could put you at risk (say, you forget to turn off the stove), you should see a doctor. In addition, if you are experiencing other uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, a doctor can help provide comprehensive solutions.

How We Help Women in Massachusetts Get Rid of Brain Fog

Menopause brings a lot of changes to women. Taking care of yourself during this time can be a key to successfully navigating the menopausal years. Women loving in Massachusetts have options when it comes to getting help for their brain fog symptoms.

At Hormonally Balanced, we’re committed to your health, including your brain health. We can rule out health issues and help you find solutions through hormone replacement therapy. Call us today so we can help you find a diagnosis and treatment for your brain fog.

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If you’re experiencing any symptoms, complete our short quiz. 

Or get in touch now!

Head straight to our contact page and complete our form there. Our team will be in touch right away. 


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