Menopause for women is such a defining time for many women. The fluctuations in the reproductive hormones during this transition time to infertility can actually cause a lasting effect on an individual's life and even on their relationships. For many women, taking menopause supplements and treatments often alleviates majority of the menopause symptoms including hot flashes and vaginal dryness. But while many would imagine that menopause is as a result of reproductive hormones from the ovaries, the truth is that the receptors for the reproductive hormones like estrogen are present all over the body and even in present in the brain! Therefore it would only be normal to imagine that whenever there are any estrogen fluctuations in the body, then the same fluctuations are received by the estrogen receptors in the brain and would therefore cause some changes in the brain. So how do you differentiate the changes that are as a result of aging and those that are truly from menopause? Scientific studies were done 2 years prior to menopause and up to 2 years after menopause to determine what changes happen in the brain during the menopausal period and here are 6 of the changes that occur in the brain during menopause.
Decline in memory
While it has often been cited as one of the menopausal symptoms, forgetfulness increases during menopausal period. Specifically, a menopausal woman finds it difficult to remember such words as those on a grocery list for shopping or even just narrating a favorite movie she watched over the weekend. A studied that followed more than 2300 menopausal women that was done for over 4 years revealed quite a lot as regards this particular topic. Premenopausal (the period just before peri-menopause) women were great at repeated tests performed on them for processing speed, verbal memory and working memory. But when the same tests were carried out during their peri-menopausal years, these same women could not perform as great. This could largely be traced to the fluctuations of estrogen in the body. But when these women got estrogen treatment, their scores for learning rose significantly.
When these tests were administered to postmenopausal women, they were able to perform greatly. The problem here, therefore, does not seem to be the declining levels of estrogen, the problem is the â€˜fluctuations' of estrogen which affect the memory in menopausal women.
Hot flashes may affect memory losses
There was a study conducted on women where the women wore ambulatory monitors (pretty much like the heart rate monitors which monitors the heart beat) which are able to differentiate between sweating from hot flashes and the sweating from any other activity. This ambulatory monitors were to measure just how many hot flashes a menopausal woman had. The findings were that women underreported their hot flashes by a whole 40%! This is not because they forgot that they had them (like in the above point of decline in memory) but because hot flashes are associated with memory loss. The studies revealed that the more a menopausal woman had hot flashes, the worse her memory got. And surprisingly when the hot flashes stopped, the memory was reported to have bounced back. Researchers think that the hot flashes that are as a result of estrogen deficiency reduce with time as the brain can adopt and it in turns starts to produce its own estrogen which clears off the hot flashes.
Changes in the structure of the brain during menopause
With ageing, the brain often suffers little and tiny strokes that cannot be clinically tested but which have an effect on the white matter that contains myelin in the brain. This is responsible for insulation of the neurons that enhances the speed of processing in the brain. The more tiny strokes that occur keep slowing down the thinking process as one age. But this slowing is also enhanced with every hot flash that occurs in a menopausal woman. Given that hot flashes often affect the structure of the white matter, scientists as still grabbling the question, that if you treated hot flashes, will the white matter still change? Most scientists think that the answer is to the affirmative but researches are yet to be concluded.
Hormone Therapy may preserve cognitive function in menopausal women
Research has shown that prolonged use of hormone therapy in women could raise the risks of such diseases like heart disease and cancers among others. Research has also shown that women who have early heart disease have a 50% risk of early onset of dementia. Researchers are therefore researching on wither the use of oral contraceptives could help reduce menopausal symptoms like hot flashes in women and also help with improving the memory of women during menopause.
Brain changes are bound to affect everything
The changes that occur during menopause often affect everything a menopausal woman does. For many it even affects their marital life. The symptoms are also intertwined so that if you have memory loss then it may lead to anxiety which may cause you to have sleepless nights. And if you have high stress levels you may want to use alcohol to help manage stress which would, in the end, compromise on your quality of sleep. Bottom line? Fluctuations of estrogen in the body would have a domino effect on the body and brain. A menopausal woman can adopt some skills that would help her survive such moments. Here are some of them
- Take a deep breath and recall any three things that you are eternally grateful for
- Life style changes are great for menopause; ensure to record whatever little change you take in this direction.
- Be sure to treat menopausal symptoms