Much as I am reluctant to admit it, we are just not as flexible, strong or quick mentally and physically at age 60 as we were at 20.
Time affects your body, and that is fairly obvious and straightforward, but the changes in our mental capacity are not always as easy to relate to either aging or menopause.
Connections between brain cells that make and help us recall memories change as we age and the proteins and hormones that do upkeep/maintenance in our brains don’t work as well.
So if you are around peri/menopause age it’s good to know the difference between typical forgetfulness and something you probably should mention to your doctor.
Details get derailed
Typical: You forget to meet up with a friend but remember later on. You recall that wedding last year, but you’re a little hazy on who was there. You had a great phone call with Henrietta last week, but what does she do for work again?
Warning sign: You miss appointments and ask friends and family for details over and over again. You forget about events you went to recently or conversations you just had.
Numbers get harder
Typical: You make a mistake balancing your bank statement once in a while or forget to pay a bill here and there. Or you just added 3 tablespoons of sugar instead of teaspoons.
Warning sign: It’s harder to focus, make a plan, and solve problems. Numbers feel like a foreign language, making it tough to follow a recipe or make sense of your household budget. As someone who is already numerically dyslexic this is one I am very aware of.
When technology and games are not your friend
Typical: You need help setting the clock on the microwave or recording your favorite show. You blank for a minute on where a card goes in a sequence for example when playing Patience or Solitaire and the rules you normally have at your fingertips just can’t be recalled immediately.
Warning sign: You can’t work your cooker controls and may forget the rules of bridge or basketball or tennis, games you’ve played or watched for decades.
Where it it?
Typical: You check your pockets, the kitchen table, your car. You go back over all your steps before, “Ah! My keys.” This can happen to all of us at any time, due to stress, being in a rush or the typical menopausal ‘brain fog’ so just notice if this is happening more frequently.
Warning sign: You put things in odd places, like your phone ends up in the freezer. You can’t remember what steps to retrace, or you blame someone for moving things.
What day is it?
Typical: Once in a while you have to stop and think about what day it is, but it comes to you, even if takes a bit.
Warning sign: The whole idea of time is confusing. You get what’s happening now, but trying to think about something that happened last week or is coming up tomorrow leaves you feeling lost.
How did I get here?
Typical: You stroll into the kitchen and can’t for the life of you remember why, and I don’t think there is anyone on the planet that hasn’t happened to! You forget the occasional street name when giving directions. It might take a beat or two, but you remember how to get to familiar places.
Warning sign: You can’t find your way home or get lost or feel confused in places you know well.
Hand me the ‘thingamabob’
Typical: You forget the name of something that’s on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite recall it. You may end up describing it to be understood, for example ‘the thing for putting the soup out – the ladle!’
Warning sign: You call things by the wrong name, sometimes really odd ones. ”Spoon” might come out “bed.” You stop in the middle of a sentence and have no idea what you were saying. You have a hard time following conversations.
You want time to chill
Typical: The mix of work, family, and social demands leaves you wiped out and craving down time, even from things you like.
Warning sign: You can’t keep up with interests you normally follow such as a hobby or social interaction. You try to get out of spending time with people to hide the problems you’re having.
The name problem
Typical: You swear you almost have it, it’s right there, but then you just could not recall your friend’s name. Or you just called your grandson by your son’s name instead.
Warning sign: You actually can’t remember your son’s name at all.
Typical: You rush out of the house without brushing your teeth, or checking your clothes are properly fastened.
Warning sign: It’s not just that you don’t remember to do things, you don’t recall how. You’re halfway through getting dressed and find yourself confused.
It’s not a problem
Typical: You’re concerned about your memory, but your family’s not. You remember when you forget things and what that moment feels like.
Warning sign: The reverse is when your family’s worried about you, but you don’t know what they’re talking about. You’re not aware that it’s happening.
Is this natural ageing forgetfulness or something else?
People often worry about Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, and that’s one possibility, but other things can be behind it.
Lots of things can cause memory problems, and some of those can be reversed. For example, it could be a lack of B12, a vitamin that’s key for your brain, or depression, a thyroid problem, or even not drinking enough fluids.
Stress is also an important factor as when stressed we can be distracted and forgetful, as well as it affecting our hormone balance which is another common reason for such symptoms.
If any of those warning signs sounded familiar or it’s affecting your daily life — your work, hobbies, and relationships then go to your doctor for a check up.
It’s also a good idea to see them if someone close to you wants you to get checked out. Normal memory problems can make you pause a moment, but they don’t keep you from going about your life.
Hormone balance is certainly a factor at menopause when so many women start to experience ‘brain freeze.’ That can be remedied by ensuring you have sufficient bioidentical hormones to help you through this that will help this and other menopausal symptoms.