For many women going through menopause, memory loss can be the most concerning symptom. They can lead women to believe their minds are receding into a fog of mental illness. There are many misunderstandings about memory lapses as they relate to menopause, which will be cleared up in this section.
Memory loss during menopause?
Webster’s Dictionary defines memory as “the mental capacity or faculty of retaining or recalling facts, events, impressions, or previous experiences”. Memory loss, then, are fleeting periods when a person loses the mental capacity or faculty of retaining or recalling information.
Two types of memory are affected in women who experience memory loss: short-term memory and recent memory.
Women who suffer from memory lapses typically report that they have “brain freeze” when trying to remember where they left their reading glasses, for example. Recollections of names, dates, and addresses can also evade a woman experiencing memory lapses during menopause, especially when she just received that information.
Types of memory
Memory is often simplified into only two categories: short- and long-term memory. In fact, there are several types that comprise the extremely complex function of a person’s memory.
The different types of memory shown below will give a better idea of the different functions memory serves.
Short-term memory- The ability to remember information for brief moments, such as a telephone number for the time it takes to dial it.
Recent memory – The ability to recall day to day events, involved in learning new information.
Sensory memory- The ability to recognize smells, sounds, and sights.
Long-term memory – Also known as remote memory, concerns itself with the more distant past.
Declarative memory – The ability to remember the meaning of words, facts, and a generalized knowledge of the world.
Procedural memory – The ability to remember motor skills – knowing how to do things – such as how to walk, ride a bike, and eat.
What causes memory loss during menopause?
Several factors can be the reason behind memory lapses in women going through menopause. But like many other menopausal symptoms, memory lapses are caused largely by hormonal imbalance. Memory lapses can also be a compound of other menopausal symptoms that affect a woman’s concentration level and mental retention. Certain risk factors or lifestyle choices may increase women’s chances of experiencing memory lapses as well.
Memory lapses are commonly experienced by women undergoing the period leading up to menopause. As a woman approaches menopause, certain hormonal levels in the body decrease. These diminishing levels of hormones, particularly estrogen, have myriad effects on a woman’s body and mind.
In the case of memory lapses, estrogen plays a special key role. It has a large effect on the functions of the brain and influences language skills, mood, attention, and a number of other functions, including memory. Oestrogen is directly linked to verbal word fluency (the ability to remember names and words). It’s no wonder then that as a woman’s estrogen levels begin to drop, her memory may suffer.
Although decreases in hormones such as estrogen are the most common cause of memory lapses for women going through menopause, there are other risk factors that could have an effect on the likelihood of experiencing this frustrating symptom.
- Excessive amounts of alcohol
- Some medications (sleeping pills, antidepressants, blood pressure and heart medications, pain killers, tranquilizers).
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Poor diet
- Lack of sleep
- Excessive workload.