Medically reviewed by Dr. Tamara Neuhaus MD
I’ve just lost my sharpness. It’s that same feeling I used to get on allergy medicine—kind of woozy and foggy. And I keep forgetting things—words, names, why I walked into a room. I sure hope it’s perimenopause and not the early stages of dementia. - Tanya, 56
Brain fog is exactly what it sounds like. A fuzzy, slow state of mind that makes focusing difficult and reaction times slower. It makes you feel intellectually off your game. Often your memory can also feel spotty or slow. Especially short-term memory.
Brain fog and memory changes can be caused by a lot of things that go hand-in-hand with peri/menopause. Poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and stress are all common peri/menopause symptoms that, over time, can take their toll on your brain’s ability to stay sharp. Often, if you can get these in check, you may start to see some improvements in your memory. There’s also some research happening right now that’s looking into possible links between menopause and dementia. Early studies suggest that estrogen may play a role in protecting the brain from tau and amyloid plaques that build up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia. While it’s still too soon to know what the actual relationship is, we’re eagerly following the exciting research being done in this area by scientists like Dr. Lisa Mosconi.
Your first line of defense is, as ever, regular exercise and a healthy diet (think: produce, protein and healthy fats). A healthy body sleeps better. And a rested body can more easily deal with depression, anxiety, and stress. This can free up your brain to focus on the subject at hand. Thirty minutes of exercise a day is a great and achievable goal. No need to join a gym. You can start by just walking more and sitting less.
The role of hormone therapy (HRT) in improving brain function and memory is somewhat controversial. Studies have shown mixed results when looking at whether hormones prevent memory loss or maintain memory. While this shouldn’t be the primary reason you might choose HRT, there are many other reasons that hormones could make your transition to menopause easier. For example, HRT can tame night sweats and urinary urgency, helping you get the sleep your brain needs. It can also help balance your mood, freeing up your brain to focus where you want it to focus.
Talk to a menopause specialist about treatment options to address brain fog and memory issues. Learn more