Save Your Menopause Brain and Combat Anxiety
Have you become a worry wart? Are you feeling more antsy lately? Well, you’re not alone. Women often complain that as they hit menopause they generally feel more anxious. Some women get angry at themselves and think that by now they should have their act together. By 50 they should be getting better at managing life’s ups and downs – not worse! Well, even if there aren’t too many downs and plenty of ups, there’s a biological reason for increased jitters. The increase in anxiety is typically attributed to changes in estrogen and progesteron, hormones which have been shown to buffer against the body’s response to stress. After menopause, these hormones just don’t protect against stress like they used to.
Stress isn’t just bad for you mood…it’s bad for your brain, too. When you experience stress, your brain produces steroids to communicate to the rest of your body that there’s a problem. If these steroids stick around too long, they can literally kill your brain cells – especially those in the hippocampus (Remember? It’s the part of your brain that is super critical for memory). Over time, stress may even result in a wasting away or shrinking of the hippocampus.
When you already feel like your mind is turning to mush thanks to menopause, who wants to lose a single cell of their hippocampus??
The good news is that you can combat the effects of stress on your brain through… exercise! Yes, exercise, again.
Research suggests that aerobic exercise can make you less anxious. It looks like the brain cells you produce while exercising are better at dealing with stress. The bad news is that it takes awhile to produce these stress-resistant cells. For rats, it took somewhere between three and six weeks. It’s still unknown how long it takes for humans.
If you know that you’ll be facing something stressful in the next month or two (like paying taxes or results from your kid’s college applications), do yourself a favor and protect your hippocampus. Start exercising now to get your brain into combat shape!