Have you noticed that often you can't seem to grab a memory or a thought? Do you look at your dear friends and children and blank out on their names? Is your refrigerator and dashboard covered in sticky note reminders? Are you feeling discombobulated and confused? You might be smack in the middle of perimenopause! Yes, memory loss is one of the many symptoms of menopause. How can you tell the difference between memory loss due to menopause and the more serious symptoms associated with dementia or early-onset Alzheimer's disease? If it is "only" menopause-related, how do you get that snappy, multi-tasking part of your life back? You know, that person who used to rock life?
First of all: fear not. Too many women freak out about memory loss, and that's NOT what I want you to do. I want you to determine whether your memory loss IS menopause related, and then if it is, go over the options available to you with your menopause specialist. Protecting your wellness and getting your life back is priority number one. I know it was for me and my family! That is why I started my search for answers and put my findings into a simple, easy book called Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness.
First, let's deal with the freak out fears over dementia. What are dementia and Alzheimer's disease, and what exactly are their symptoms? How are they different from memory loss due to menopause? Let's take a look...
"Dementia is an impairment of thinking and memory that interferes with a person's ability to do things which he or she previously was able to do. Dementia is a symptom much like pain is a symptom. Many different injuries and illnesses can cause pain – the same is true for dementia."1
Here are some common symptoms of dementia, as summarized by the Mayo Clinic
1- Memory Loss
2- Difficulty communicating
3- Inability to learn or remember new information
4- Difficulty with planning or organizing
5- Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
6- Personality changes
7- Inability to reason
8- Inappropriate behavior
"Alzheimer's disease is a specific disease that causes dementia. It is a progressive brain disease. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Alzheimer's gets worse over time and it is fatal. It is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is particularly common in older people."3
Here are the top ten warning signs of the development of Alzheimer's disease, as summarized by the Alzheimer's Society
1- Memory loss that affects day-to-day function
2- Difficulty performing familiar tasks
3- Problems with language
4- Disorientation of time and place
5- Poor or decreased judgment
6- Problems with abstract thinking
7- Misplacing things
8- Changes in mood and behavior
9- Changes in personality
10- Loss of initiative 4
As you can see, there are definitely a few symptoms of dementia that may overlap with the symptoms of menopause, and that's why when I entered perimenopause and started experiencing some of them, I began my journey to find answers and solutions. Suddenly, in the middle of a conversation I would be unable to finish my thoughts, my memory was somewhere lost with my keys, and my emotions were teetering like a see saw. I was able to uncover the facts about perimenopause and found my way to informed and competent expert medical support. After finding hormone happiness most of my symptoms vanished into thin air, and I became myself again. If this happy news isn't reassuring enough for you, then hear this: new conclusions from a longitudinal study of women who began to take HRT within 5 years of commencing menopause, has indicated that they "were 30% less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than women who started years later."5 That's amazing news!
Although memory loss is definitely associated with menopause, it is not the only contributor to this symptom. The following issues can exacerbate memory loss:
1- Stress: Stress can be a huge factor when attempting to understand one's memory loss. It's like when someone gets hypothermia and their extremities are the first in line to stop receiving adequate circulation. The body shuts down the parts that are not necessary to survival first, and re-directs its energy towards the core, brain, and spinal column. It's the same with stress. Your body enters "fight or flight" mode, and your memory is one of the first things it ditches, in `an effort to remain as functional as possible in its stressed-out state. In order to get that memory fully functioning again, you need to solve the stress issue first.
2- Chronic lack of sleep : If you're chronically sleep deprived, then your brain is not able to work to its full potential. Everyone feels better after a great night's sleep and your memory benefits from it too. Remember what the first couple of years of your children's lives were like? No? Exactly!
3- Mild depression: Many people who are experiencing memory loss may also be exhibiting signs of depression. Once their depression is treated, their memory often returns.6 Please consult your physician if you think depression may be the culprit in The Case of Your Declining Memory...
4- Too many medications: As we get older, a large percentage of us begin to accumulate more prescription medications. Taking too many meds can interfere with basic brain function, including memory. Again, do not self-prescribe, or go off of meds without the comprehensive advice of your doctors.
The bottom line... There is a big difference between dementia, Alzheimer's and occasional memory loss during perimenopause and menopause. Check with your doctor in order to help evaluate the nature and severity of your symptoms. Whatever you do please remember:
Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!
1 For more information on the symptoms of dementia, visit http://www.dementiaguide.com/community/dementia-articles/Difference_Alzheimer's_and_Dementia
2 For more information on dementia health, please see http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dementia/DS01131/DSECTION=symptoms
3 For more information about dementia symptoms, visit http://www.dementiaguide.com/community/dementia-articles/Difference_Alzheimer's_and_Dementia
4 For more info about Alzheimer's Disease, please see http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/About-dementia/Alzheimer-s-disease/Warning-signs-and-symptoms/10-warning-signs?gclid=CPDDxKn5vbQCFad_QgodnisA6A
5 For more info on the study referenced above about HRT and Alzheimer's, go to http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/10/24/us-hormones-alzheimers-idUSBRE89N1S020121024
6 Check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-krauss-whitbourne/memory-loss-senior-moments_b_2338547.html for more information on memory loss.