Tips to Naturally Fight Memory Loss

Tips to Naturally Fight Memory Loss

Approaching middle age can feel like walking around in a brain fog, especially among women. According to Pauline Maki, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and psychology and director of women’s health research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, memory loss is a common occurrence among women as they approach menopause.

Meki also says that women approaching menopause tend to easily forget even recently learned verbal information. Studies show that up to 60% of women who are experiencing perimenopause/menopause report that their memory is not as sharp as it used to be when they were younger.

Scientists have already established that memory loss among women is linked to a decline in the levels of estrogens. The levels drastically plunge during menopause. Just like most studies that involve the brain, the answers are not always simple or straightforward.

“Mice are curious,” says Karyn Frick, a UWM professor of psychology. “By watching them in their lab environment, we could see that female “middle-aged” mice were mentally old compared to males of the same age.”

According to Frick, women are three times more likely to develop memory loss and Alzheimer as they grow old. The problem can’t simply be solved by replacing the estrogen or through hormonal replacement therapy. Such remedies could have harmful effects like increased risk of getting cancer and cardiovascular complications.

Signs and Symptoms of Memory Loss

Since memory loss is associated with menopause, here is a list of common perimenopause symptoms:

And, of course, irregular menstrual cycles.

Studies have shown that women who experience hot flashes could also be susceptible to loss of verbal memory. In a 2008 study, Dr. Maki and her team observed 29 women who were suffering from moderate hot flashes. Participants were given standardized verbal tests and those who experienced hot flashes exhibited the worst results.

Other common symptoms of memory loss include:

There is also a notable mild cognitive impairment which often affects the memory part of the brain. The condition doesn’t generally progress much unless it is an extreme case.

Why Memory Declines

There isn’t an exact answer on the effects of estrogen on the brain and the problem is yet to be fully understood by neurologists. One way to look at it is that estrogen aids the neurotransmitter system in sending signals to the brain areas that are involved in handling information and memory processing. There are also some researchers who are of the opinion that estrogen helps in survival and growth of neurons. Neurons are the cells responsible for sending electrical impulses to the brain.

Treatment

In a two-year study, Dr. Karyn Frick found out that long-term treatment of memory loss with the sex hormone estrogen did not show any improvement like it was anticipated.

"It was surprising because we thought for sure we'd see a benefit of at least some of our treatments," said Frick, now a Professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Which begs the question, what are some ways to improve symptoms of memory loss? Most of them are common sense solutions that improve most health issues to a degree.

Good Rest

Resting is one of the natural remedies that could support your brain function during menopause. You should try to maintain a regular sleeping schedule. Make sure you’re going to bed before 11 p.m. and waking up at the same time every day of the week.

Consider not consuming caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco since they exhaust the nervous system over time and damage the liver. Try to avoid intense exercise and having a big meal at night. Learning relaxation techniques like mindful yoga can help in improving your brain function, or at least reduce the stress and worry that comes with concerns about brain function. Consult your doctor for guidance on making the right lifestyle shifts so that you can optimize resting your brain at night and letting it function at its highest capacity during the day.

Eat Well

Plant-based organic diets rich in green vegetables, small legumes, and ancient whole grains are advised.  These items are not exposed to high levels of pesticides and industrial toxicants which often cause brain and peripheral nervous system damage.  Cook more food on the stovetop versus roasting, grilling, or frying since these foods turn into carcinogens and damage brain function when cooked at high temperatures.   You will coincidentally be decreasing your simple sugar, carbohydrates, and saturated fat consumption which helps makes your brain function well.

If you must take processed foods, go for products not packaged in plastic, full of hydrogenated oils or sweeteners like corn syrup.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise stimulates areas of the brain that are critical in memory and information processing. Exercise is also believed to  improve the functioning of the hippocampus, which is a section of the brain that is responsible for developing different types of memory.

The American College of Sports Medicine highly recommends premenopausal and postmenopausal women to get 60 minutes of daily exercise. For the best results, a combination of strength building  exercise and aerobics is recommended. This includes anything you enjoy doing that gets your heart pumping regularly. Strength-builders include lifting weights, squats, pushups, and sit-ups.

Exercise Your Brain

The brain is like a muscle.  By keeping it active, you help stave off the adverse effects of aging. To give your brain a proper workout, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby which keeps the brain alert and curious, such as learning a foreign language or taking art classes.

Read widely and wildly.  Take notes in the process.  Continue interacting with lots of different people outside your social circle. Social stimulation is a big support for brain function as it reduces loneliness, prevents depression, and keeps us happy.

When to Seek Help

It is common and normal to be forgetful as you age. You may lose your keys or forget to water the plants especially when your mind is distracted with too many other thoughts. There are situations where the symptoms are severe including:

Proper medical attention is now required. Your symptoms may be tied to developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Other common reasons may be:

Your doctor may recommend menopause hormonal therapy (HRT) to lessen symptoms. The problem is HRT’s do not actually address the underlying cause of decrease brain function and are often associated with worsening liver function and increasing cancer risk within a few years.

The Importance of Outlook

Doctors agree that memory loss is common during perimenopause and usually improves afterward. Reach out to Advanced Health’s integrative physicians Dr. Harlan South M.D. and Payal Bhandari M.D. for a holistic approach.  Their combined 30 years of experience in cognitive decline has helped countless number of patients with defining the underlying cause of memory loss and defining a personalized treatment plan.

Advanced Health in the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco, California leverages the best in evidence based conventional Western medicine and integrative medicine to provide whole-person care. Our practice  provides a personalized health evaluation and customized treatments for each patient’s unique conditions. Contact us now!

Author
Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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