How Menopause Affects Your Brain
When most women think about menopause, they tend to think about how this process of aging affects their ability to have children and their reproductive organs, specifically their ovaries and uteruses. While these are the organs that experience the most obvious changes during menopause, other parts of the body go through changes as well. This is because menopause causes a significant reduction in your body’s production of primary female sex hormones – estrogen and progesterone.
Hormones essentially act as chemical messengers in the body and have a massive impact on how the entire body functions. As your ovaries start to halt the production of estrogen and progesterone, the way nonreproductive organs – including the brain – operate also changes.
Menopause, Estrogen, and the Brain: Symptoms
There are several perimenopause and menopause symptoms that manifest through our brains, including:
- Mood swings
- Problems with sleeping
- Depression and anxiety
- Brain fog
- Forgetfulness and confusion
Some studies link these cognitive issues with declining levels of estrogen during menopause. One type of estrogen, known as estradiol, has been shown to play an important role in how the female brain functions. In the brain, estradiol:
- Optimizes signal pathways
- Increases serotonin
- Increases cerebral blood flow
- Protects nerves from damage
- Influences cognitive function for motor skills and verbal memory
Estrogen’s role in the brain expands beyond our ability to think and feel – it affects the whole body. In fact, even other bodily symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, are considered by some to originate from the changes in the brain rather than the ovaries.
Helping Your Brain During Menopause
For many women, these symptoms are only temporary but can still make everyday life frustrating. In some cases, you may be able to improve your cognitive function by making a few lifestyle adjustments to keep your brain sharp, including:
- Keeping a diary or notepad to help you remember things and keep track of any external factors that are exacerbating your cognitive issues
- Following a healthy diet
- Exercising your brain with puzzles and hobbies
- Incorporating meditation or yoga into your life
However, if your symptoms are causing real havoc in your life, then you definitely need to discuss them with your gynecologist. Together, you and your doctor can come up with a treatment plan that addresses all your symptoms. One common treatment that doctors sometimes recommend, for example, is hormone replacement therapy, which is a technique that uses medication to restore your estrogen level.
Menopause can be one of the most aggravating aspects of getting older. Thankfully, many of the symptoms, including cognitive ones, can often be managed in some way. To learn more about menopause, self-care strategies, and treatment, contact Pacific Women’s Obstetrics & Gynecology.Back to blog