WSJ – For Women, Midlife Brain Fog Is Real. Here’s Why.
Wondering why you keep forgetting things? One culprit for midlife women: perimenopause.
Blanking on someone’s name. Forgetting why you entered a room. Struggling to concentrate on a task.
Women in their 40s and early 50s often notice declines in their memory, focus and ability to learn new things—symptoms sometimes called “brain fog.”
Doctors have good news and bad news. There’s a good chance these problems are caused by normal midlife hormonal changes during perimenopause, and often get better after you’ve had your last period. Medications along with exercise and a healthy diet may help. The bad news: For some women, these problems persist.
Perimenopause, which typically takes place when a woman is in her 40s and early 50s, starts when a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle becomes irregular and can range from three years to more than a decade. Dramatic fluctuations in hormones during this time trigger many symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats and mood changes.
About 60% of women report a decline in memory function during perimenopause, studies show. Despite those changes, most women’s overall cognitive performance remains within a normal range.
New guidance commissioned by the International Menopause Society, a group of doctors and researchers who make recommendations for treating menopause, advises healthcare practitioners to let women know that they aren’t experiencing dementia symptoms. Memory problems, the guidelines say, often resolve once women reach menopause, the point where they haven’t had a menstrual cycle in one year.
“The most important thing is to reassure women that these experiences are normal,” says Pauline Maki, a professor of psychiatry, psychology and obstetrics/gynecology at the University of Illinois Chicago and first author of the set of guidelines published last year in the journal Climacteric.
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