How’s your memory? Forgot where your glasses are and what the name of the movie is that you want to see? Have you parked the car in a lot and then couldn’t remember where? Fumbled awkwardly over introductions because you forgot someone’s name? I’m sorry, what was I saying?
There are many causes of memory loss.
Physical, treatable causes
Some memory problems are due to health issues that can be treated. Medication may create these side effects, as may vitamin B12 deficiency, dehydration, chronic alcoholism, tumors or infections or blood clots in the brain. Some thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders also can lead to memory loss. Evaluation by an appropriate medical professional is important.
Emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression can make us more forgetful. Those of us who retired recently or who are coping with the death of a spouse, relative, or intimate friend may find ourselves being unusually forgetful.
I recall reading a truly funny piece by a woman in menopause who said she couldn’t remember anything but had a great sense of humor about it. She said her mind was jelly. And all my friends who’d started menopause said, “Uh-huh. That’s exactly what it’s like.” So I was really not looking forward to “the change.” Aside from the physical and emotional discomforts I’d been warned of, I really value my clarity of mind.
A few years ago, a study published in the journal Menopause (yes, there really is a journal dedicated to it) concluded that the memory problems experienced by women in their 40s and 50s as they advance toward and go through menopause are indisputable.
“Women going through menopausal transition have long complained of cognitive difficulties such as keeping track of information and struggling with mental tasks that would have otherwise been routine,” said Miriam Weber, Ph.D., a neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the study. “By identifying how these memory problems progress and when women are most vulnerable, we now understand the window of opportunity during which interventions* — be those therapeutic or lifestyle changes — may be beneficial.”
Somehow we get lost in brain fog: we forget things, possibly because we also can’t seem to focus. On top of that, we lose everything from keys to the ability to find the right words. In menopause, these symptoms can all be linked to the reduction in estrogen. But it is usually just a dip followed by some welcome recovery of our capacity after menopause. But then… along comes aging!
Middle age is the time when most of us start to notice physical decline and symptoms of mental deterioration. New neurons develop throughout our lives, but our brains reach maximum size during our early twenties and then begin to very slowly decline in volume. Even women who remain healthy and retain good brain function later in life also lose a significant amount of brain volume during normal aging. Blood flow to the brain also decreases over time. This is all associated with loss in some mental functioning.
Prevention of (further) memory loss
If you’re reading this, it’s not too late to get started on improving memory. According to the National Institute on Aging of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “People with some forgetfulness can use a variety of techniques that may help them stay healthy and maintain their memory and mental skills.” Some of their suggestions are:
- Plan tasks and make “to do” lists, and use memory aids like notes and calendars.
- Develop interests or hobbies and stay involved in activities that help both the mind and body.
- Engage in physical activity and exercise. Some studies have found an association between exercise, such as walking, and better brain function.
- Eliminate heavy or binge drinking, which, over time, can cause memory loss and permanent brain damage.
- Find activities to relieve feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression.*
Cleveland Clinic and other resources recommend maintaining a healthy diet, high in antioxidants. Take classes, play board games and memory games, learn another language or musical instrument, socialize, have your vision and hearing checked, and reduce hypertension.
*Prevention and intervention: the role of Transcendental Meditation
Here’s a list of things that put you at risk for memory loss that meditating women’s experiences and scientific research show are significantly reduced or corrected by practicing Transcendental Meditation:
Reduced blood flow to the prefrontal
How does TM work?
The TM technique is a natural, effortless technique already learned by over six million people around the world. There is neither religion, philosophy nor belief involved and no need to change lifestyle or diet. When we practice the TM technique for 20 minutes twice daily, we sit comfortably with closed eyes. So easy to learn and practice that even ten-year old children do it successfully, the TM practice brings deep, restorative rest to everyone’s mind and body. Because of this deep rest and balancing that occur in the body—including healthy changes in the brain, tissues and hormones—deep stress washes away, in turn improving and balancing mental, physical and emotional health. Women of all ages and walks-of-life find that TM connects them to an inner happiness that generates fullness, clarity and self-confidence—independent of anything outside of themselves.
Start favoring whatever you or your physician or your nutritionist or your exercise instructor indicate will improve your mental clarity and memory. If you learn Transcendental Meditation first, all the other endeavors will be more successful. To find a TM teacher for a personal discussion about learning TM, use the round chat button on the lower right to start a chat or contact us here. I’ll call you tomorrow to remind you (:
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of the TM program for women professionals in the USA.