Memory lapses occur when you momentarily forget everyday things such as where you put your pen down, the date of an appointment or what your next door neighbour is called. This can be irritating, sometimes embarrassing and often worrying.
Going through the menopause may cause you to have difficulty concentrating or make your brain freeze as you grope into its depths trying to remember what time to pick up your child from football practice. Memory lapses affecting menopausal women tend to hinder short-term memory rather than cause you to forget major events from your past.
Menopause disrupts the balance of hormones in your body. At the same time, your brain contains oestrogen receptors and is responsive to this hormone, helping your brain function better, aiding memory and verbal fluency. When levels of oestrogen in your body drop, it is no wonder that you may suffer unexpected lapses in memory.
There is also research to suggest that frequent hot flashes can result in lapses in your memory. Night sweats can prevent you from getting a sound night’s sleep, which hinders focus and recall the next day.
It is worth remembering that memory lapses, like other menopause symptoms you are experiencing, should not last. The research holds out hope that once you are through the menopause, you will be able to recall information more effectively again.
However, if you are suffering from continued, severe or worsening memory loss symptoms, rather than mild memory falters, then it is necessary to seek advice from a doctor to rule out any underlying health issues.
There are certain measures which you can slip into your day-to-day routine (if you remember!) which can help boost your memory:
- Exercise – regular exercise will maintain a rich blood flow around the brain. This will keep your brain cells healthy and reduce your likelihood of memory lapses
- Drink plenty of water – water hydrates the body and brain, keeping them healthy
- Mind games such as sudoku and crosswords – keeping your brain active through games or learning a new skill will stimulate your brain to make new connections
- Eat a balanced diet – a healthy diet is one of the primary ways of keeping your body healthy. Certain foods have been shown to improve mental function, so including these in your diet should help with your memory lapses. These include fish, soy products and fruit and vegetables
- Taking a supplement of soya isoflavones mimics the action of your natural hormones and can have the benefits HRT provides without the side-effects
- Vitamin B – taking a vitamin B complex supplement can also aid your mental function and help prevent lapses in memory
- Make sure you sleep well – if you don’t sleep at night, and spend your waking hours tired, your ability to remember information will reduce. Getting a proper amount of sleep at night has been proven to increase your mental function and concentration during the day. If you have trouble sleeping at night, our sleep hygiene tips page may help
- Relax – it is important to take time every day to relax. If you begin to panic when your brain denies you information, this will only make the situation worse.
Menopausal women often look to herbal remedies to help with their memory lapses. Herbs which are useful during this time of life include:
Ginkgo biloba – this is about the oldest medicinal herb around, dating back to 3,000 BC. Its nickname of ‘memory tree’ indicates its properties
Salvia Officinalis – this herb is also known as sage and is commonly used to treat hot flashes associated with the menopause and alleviate the symptoms of night sweats, Research has also shown that it can help the brain function better
Rosemary – the ancient Greeks used rosemary to improve memory and it is still thought today that inhaling its fragrance can aid your memory.
Memory lapses related to the menopause tend not to linger once you are through this time of life. This means that there are no drugs specifically designed to help with your menopausal memory lapses which your doctor can recommend.
If you are suffering from more long-term memory loss and you begin to forget things which you have known for years, then it is best to seek medical advice.