As we age, some of us start to notice sensory changes that are quite common. Presbyopia is the age-related progressive loss of vision which is very common in over 40 year olds. Suddenly we may find ourselves straining and squinting to read literature that was once easy to read. The same thing might happen with your hearing; over time you may start to think people around are whispering. Unfortunately, this may not be the case.
Declining hearing, vision and forgetfulness are common age-related sensory complaints we hear about regularly at the Australian Menopause Centre. Claire Warga in her book “Menopause and the Mind” explores deeply the relationship between declining oestrogen and the cognitive effects on the mind. She believes menopause and perimenopause can significantly impact memory, foggy thinking and verbal slips. (1) Interestingly, many studies suggest a role for oestrogen in the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Our doctors here at the Australian Menopause Centre believe that memory loss and the inability to concentrate may be strongly related to declining oestrogen levels.
Relaxation techniques also have a positive effect on our mental state. In one study involving 80 older adults in China, patients were taught muscle relaxation and meditation methods. Improvements in both sleep and cognitive function were observed. (5) Relaxation does not have to be overly time consuming. Regular relaxation techniques, if done often enough, become a part of your daily routine – just like brushing your teeth.
Recently I came across an article about a challenge called the “30×30 challenge” put forward by a foundation dedicated to environmental sustainability. Four Sydney based professional women took up this challenge as part of a leadership program, connecting with nature in some form for 30 minutes, every day, for 30 days. They each connected in different, easy, ways. One of them started walking to and from work, whilst another used the time mindfully to gaze intently at raindrops tumbling to the ground. Although they all had vastly different experiences, each one of them acknowledged the profound effect connecting daily with nature had on their quality of life. According to the article this provided ample evidence to say that connecting with nature will “increase your happiness, lifespan, memory and creativity”. (7)
Another great way to conveniently increase your brain power is to chew your food! An interesting association was found between ageing people with more teeth and a lower incidence of dementia. One study gave chewing gum to a group of people aged 60-76 years and found that their ability to retrieve memories significantly increased. One theory is that chewing increases blood flow to the brain particularly the areas associated with memory. Several studies have shown that a lower blood flow to the brain is associated with faster cognitive decline. It was also observed that regular sensory stimulation that occurs during chewing is an essential part of maintaining learning and memory function. (9,10)
Food for thought:
Challenge yourself! Try the 30×30 challenge – start today!
Relax the mind and breathe. This could be as simple as deep breathing for 10 counts each day on waking and before going to bed.
Keep chewing, not only is chewing beneficial for digestion but it seems that it may even help your memory!
Alternatively, if you do feel that perhaps your “foggy brain” may be related to changes in your hormones – book an appointment now and speak with one of our consultants who will be able to determine whether your declining hormones may be contributing to your inability to concentrate.
Written by Sharon Aaron
- Warga CL, 1999, Menopause and the Mind – a complete guide to coping with the cognitive effects of perimenopause and menopause including- memory loss, foggy thinking and verbal slips, Touchstone, New York.
- Simpkins JW et al, Role of Oestrogen Replacement Therapy in Memory Enhancement and the prevention of neuronal loss associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, The American Journal of Medicine, Sept 22, 1997, 103 (3):19S-25S
- Maki PM, Rich JB, Rosenbaum RS,2002, Implicit memory varies across the menstrual cycle: estrogen effects in young women, Neuropsychologia,40 (5),518-529
- Paganini-Hill A, Henderson VW,1994, Estogen deficiency and the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease in women, American Journal of epidemiology, 140 (3), 256-261
- Sun J, Kang J, Wang P, Hui Zen. Self relaxation training can improve sleep quality and cognitive functions in the older: a one year randomised controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2013; 22(9-10):1270-80
- Lovas, J. 2017.Evidence based relaxation therapy, physiological and psychological benefits.JATMS;23(4) 208-209
- Clarke A, 2017.Time4nature; JATMS: 23(4) 212-215.
- Selhub EM, Logan AC, 2012, Your brain on Nature, Wiley and Sons, Canada
- Tada A, Miura H. Association between mastication and cognitive status: A systematic review. Arch Gerontol Geriatr.2017;70:44-53
- Teixeira FB, Pereira Fernandes L de M, Tavares Noronha PA, et al. Masticatory deficiency as a risk factor for cognitive dysfunction. Int J Med Sci. 2014;11(2):209-214