Jeanne Tripplehorn 06.10.1963

Posts Tagged ‘hormones’

Relationships: The Menopause Test

1.15.12

As you’ve probably figured out by now, menopause can wreak some serious havoc on your mind, body, and relationships. Which actually might not be such a bad thing. If this sound familiar to you, Dr. Hyman, a functional medicine expert known for the Ultra-wellness series and one of Dr. Ozs favorite guests, recommends that you take a peak at The Wisdom of Menopause, a menopause wellness guide by Christine Northrup, MD. One thing she points out is how a Menopaused Mind can actually offer you a creative and social renaissance!

 

 

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Northrup’s book that Dr. Hyman highlights in his most recent post:

“It is no secret that relationship crises are a common side effect of menopause. Usually this is attributed to the crazy-making effects of the hormonal shifts occurring in a woman’s body at this time of transition. What is rarely acknowledged or understood is that as these hormone-driven changes affect the brain, they give a woman a sharper eye for inequity and injustice, and a voice that insists on speaking up about them. In other words, they uncover hidden wisdom—and the courage to voice it. As the vision-obscuring veil created by the hormones of reproduction begins to lift, a woman’s youthful fire and spirit are often rekindled, together with long-sublimated desires and creative drives. Midlife fuels those drives with a volcanic energy that demands an outlet.


“If it does not find an outlet—if the woman remains silent for the sake of keeping the peace at home or work, or if she holds herself back from pursuing her creative urges and desires—the result is equivalent to plugging the vent on a pressure cooker: Something has to give. Very often what gives is the woman’s health, and the result will be one or more of the “big three” diseases of postmenopausal women: heart disease, depression, and breast cancer. On the other hand, for those of us who choose to honor the body’s wisdom and to express what lies within us, it’s a good idea to get ready for some boat rocking, which may put long-established relationships in upheaval. Marriage is not immune to this effect.”


Check out the rest of Dr. Hyman’s post for Dr. Northrup’s tips on navigating those stormy social waters.

 


Menopause Mind Proof: Not Losing Memory, But Brain Works Harder

12.8.11

Although we’ve been convinced that the Menopause Mind is real for a while now, hence this blog, finding empirical support for the connection between menopause and memory declines has been as easy as finding those car keys you left in the fridge.

 

Well, it seems like we’re both right and wrong. The Los Angeles Times just ran an piece on the findings of a recent study designed to examine whether or not post-menopausal women complaining of memory problems performed significantly worse on memory tests than women who did not share these complaints.  Researchers at the University of Vermont and Vanderbilt used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to examine the brain activity of 22 women while they worked on various memory tasks. It turns out that the performance of the 12 women who complained of memory problems on these tests was no different from that of the 10 women who claimed that their memory was fine.

But, the researcher’s also found that the brains of the complainers were much more active than the non-complainers. Specifically, the action was increased in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in intellectual functioning and working memory, and the anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved in a variety of autonomic  functions (think blood pressure,  heart rate) and cognitive functioning including decision making, learning and emotion.

 

So, what does this mean for you? Even though you feel like your memory is shot  (the subjective experience of menopause mind), it may not really be that bad (your objective memory ability), but your brain is probably working overtime to compensate for memory slips.  To us, this translates to the following:  if you feel like you have memory problems, they probably exist, but your brain kicks into high gear to make up for them. Keep in mind that this study was done with 22 women, all of whom were post-menopausal. They did not compare post-menopausal women with pre-menopausal women  This does not yet support the theory that physiological changes during menopause cause memory deficits. But it seems we’re one step closer to grasping the workings of the mind’s mysterious metamorphosis during and after menopause than we had been–although not entirely there.

 

The LA Times piece also includes a discussion of the findings from another recent study that examined hormone changes and brain matter. To put it very simply, they examined the brains of women before and after a brief round of hormone therapy (increased estrogen). They found an increase in the density of grey matter after hormone therapy. This suggests that hormones may influence brain’s functioning by playing a role in how much grey matter–the more grey matter, the better your cognitive functioning. But it’s still unclear what exactly is going on.  The University of Vermont and Vanderbilt researchers plan to test hormone therapy as a way to improve memory among the complainers.  Or, maybe they’ll just get them to stop complaining. We’ll keep you posted.

Save Your Menopause Brain and Combat Anxiety

2.2.11

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!