Now that I’ve entered my 40s, I’m beginning to realize that there are a lot of weird details about aging that no one ever told me about. This is especially true when it comes to perimenopause—the natural transitional time women go through when they are finishing up their childbearing years.
Perimenopause can last anywhere between two and ten years. It is marked by changes in your menstrual cycle and hormone levels, plus a number of other physical and emotional symptoms.
For many women, one of the symptoms they experience during perimenopause is brain fog. It happens to the best of us, and it can be incredibly frustrating. Information that used to be quickly accessible in our head all of the sudden becomes difficult to recall.
Scientific researchers have found via numerous studies that perimenopause wreaks such havoc on our hormones that it messes with both our recall abilities and attention to detail. This is because plummeting estrogen levels can affect the hippocampus, the part of the brain that makes short-term memories become long-term memories and stores all of that info.
Add in a poor diet, inactivity, and/or bad sleeping habits, and now I know why I forget things on my to-do list and can no longer rap every word of Salt N Pepa’s Shoop when it comes on the radio.
RELATED: Strong Butt, Strong Brain? The Surprising Science Behind Muscle Strength And Brain Health
This little creep of cognitive decline is unnecessary and I won’t stand for it! No, there’s not a magic pill that will reverse the signs of aging. However, there are some steps you can take to fight brain drain.
1. Get Active For A Few Minutes Each Day
Despite all of the fad diets and workout trends we’ve seen in our lifetime, we all know by now that the secret to a healthy lifestyle is to eat a fresh, balanced diet and be active for at least 30 minutes a day. And this is definitely the case if you want a brain boost.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, we should be getting 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise each week. That’s literally 22 minutes of exercise a day, and that’s all it takes to see some improvement with brain fog.
Regular exercise will oxygenate your brain and boost the size of the hippocampus. It will also release chemicals that will enhance brain cells and stimulate the growth of new blood vessels in the brain.
A simple 20-minute walk has been shown to improve blood flow and brain activity. Not only will it help with brain fog, but regular activity can also improve your mood and result in better sleep. Need help with where to start? This simple 31-day indoor walking routine can easily be done from the comfort of your own home.
2. Make Sleep A Priority
Speaking of sleep, it’s time to make it a priority in your life. If you aren’t getting enough sleep every night—or if you are having problems falling and staying asleep—this is something that needs to be addressed immediately.
Scientists have told us that when we are sleeping, our brain is processing our day and storing memories to recall later. If you have poor sleep habits, it’s likely affecting your ability to make memories and contributing to your brain fog while you’re awake.
There are multiple steps you can take to help improve your sleeping, like natural supplements or more comfortable bedding. Of course, some conditions can be more serious and would require a consultation with your doctor.
3. Think And Do Things Differently
I am so set in my ways at this point in my life that I’m often on “mental autopilot,” which is quite common for people in their 40s. I’ve trained my mind to do things in a certain way, and for some situations that’s fine. But to develop new brain pathways and keep my mind sharp, I have to change things up and do things differently from time to time.
Getting yourself outside of your comfort zone and making the effort to challenge your brain—like going through the process of learning a new skill or language—has significant cognitive benefits. Adding in some meditation and mindfulness for a bit of brain reboot also has its benefits.
4. Add Omega-3 Fatty Acids To Your Diet
The brain is the fattiest organ in our bodies—made up of about 60 percent fat and 75 percent water. Scientists believe that the best thing to add to your daily diet in order to keep those brain cell membranes strong and help grow new ones are Omega-3s.
You can grow new brain cells in that memory machine known as the hippocampus via a process called neurogenesis, and you can do it all the way into your 90s. The healthy fats in Omega-3s will help grow those brain cells, and you can add them to your diet via seafood like mackerel, salmon, and cod.
There are also Omega-3 supplements if you’re not a fan of fish that can easily be added to your diet.