Menopause Spotlight: The Link Between Your Hot Flashes and Memory Concerns
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Experiencing memory concerns while going through menopause? You’re not alone! Previous studies have already shown that women experience a decline in memory as they transition through menopause. Now, a new study sheds light on the link between hot flashes and brain function. Study results are published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Using an MRI, researchers set out to document the occurrence of hot flashes and their impact on the brain, specifically their effect on “hippocampal and prefrontal cortex functions during encoding and recognition conditions of a memory task.” Using physiologic hot flash monitoring to confirm the hot flash versus relying on patient recall and an MRI, researchers evaluated real-time changes occurring within the brain during the memory testing.
Although this was a small study and others are needed to fully evaluate the results, researchers concluded that there is a relationship between hot flashes and altered brain function.
Nutrients During Menopause
The good news is that there a clinically studied nutrients that have been shown to support overall wellness for women during menopause.
Black Cohosh Root Extract is a plant native to North America that has been used by Native American and even Chinese herbalists for a variety of ailments. The part of the black cohosh plant that has the most benefit is the dried root. According to the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, studies confirm that black cohosh is “effective for relieving menopausal symptoms”. In a study of 120 women with menopausal symptoms, black cohosh was more effective in relieving hot flashes and night sweats than the antidepressant fluxetine (Prozac). Also according to Mount Sinai, “Given the results of most clinical studies, many experts conclude that black cohosh may be a safe and effective alternative for women who cannot or will not take hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause. A 2010 review by researchers found that black cohosh provided a 26% reduction in hot flashes and night sweats (also known as vasomotor symptoms). More recently, studies have linked black cohosh to reduced sleep disturbance among menopausal women.”
For years, women have turned to estrogen therapies to reduce the symptoms of menopause, which includes pills, patches, topicals, and vaginal treatments. But a 2010 review published in The Journal of Nutrition entitled, “The Role of Soy Foods in the Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms“, says that many women have turned to soy foods as an alternative. This is because soy products like tofu, soybeans and soy milk contain phytoestrogen – a plant hormone that is similar to estrogen. Here are a few studies mentioned in the review:
- A cross-sectional study in China investigated factors associated with hot flashes in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women, ages 40–60 years old. Among postmenopausal women, an omnivorous diet decreased the prevalence of hot flashes.
- A cohort study in 1,106 premenopausal Japanese women aged 35–54 y assessed dietary intake at baseline and hot flashes 6 year later. Hot flashes were significantly inversely associated with consumption of soy products and isoflavone intake.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, generally, post-menopausal women are less satisfied with their sleep and as many as 61% report insomnia symptoms. Their website reports, “While total sleep time may not suffer, sleep quality does. Hot flashes may interrupt sleep and frequent awakening causing next-day fatigue.” Researchers suggest reducing stress and focusing on sleep efficiency. L-Theanine is an amino acid that is derived from the tea plant that safely promotes relaxation and stress relief, without the common side effects. A 2019 review published in the journal Pharmacological Research, reports “Published data suggests that L-theanine administered at daily doses ranging from 200 to 400 mg for up to 8 weeks are safe and induce anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) and anti-stress effects in acute and chronic conditions.”
- The North American Menopause Society (NAMS). “Hot flashes impair memory performance: New study suggests hot flashes may alter hippocampal and prefrontal cortex function to decrease verbal memory.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 January 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200123095859.htm>.