Is It Alzheimer’s or Mental-pause?

Monday, 12 April 2010 10:42 AM

Do you forget names? Do simple words slip your mind? Suddenly your spelling seems off, you can’t find your keys, and you just can’t seem to focus like you used to.
If so, you aren’t alone. It isn’t your imagination, and it is not just stress. You probably don’t have “attention deficit” either, though that’s what women are often told. It may be simply perimenopause, menopause, or long after menopause. Women in all these stages can have memory loss, and the common culprit can be that your brain fuel, estradiol, is on empty.
Meet “Ann” and “Katherine,” two of my patients. Ann was 46 when she sat in my consult room in tears, terrified that she might have Alzheimer’s like her mother did.
“My mother’s Alzheimer’s began in her early 50s,” Ann said. “Now I am having memory problems. I can’t seem to focus on my to-do lists like I used to, I forget names, I go to say a word I know and suddenly it’s not there, and I feel stupid. I can’t seem to add like I used to, and my mind wanders a lot. I do everything right, I take care of my health, and there’s just nothing in my lifestyle to cause this memory problem. That’s why I’m so worried it is the beginning of Alzheimer’s.”
Katherine, a 61-year-old writer, was upset by her growing difficulty finding the right words, and trouble keeping her attention focused on getting a story finished on deadline.
“My thoughts are fragmented, and I get distracted so easily,” Katherine said. “I used to be very focused. My husband said I could tune out a freight train coming through the room. Now, the slightest thing distracts me. My other doctors think I’m depressed or tell me I’m under stress. But I’ve always had a lot of stress and used to thrive under pressures of a deadline. I’m frightened. This isn’t me.”
Both Ann and Katherine had high Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels and low estradiol levels, typical of menopause. Neither woman had considered the memory problems could be related to menopause, and neither had experienced the usual menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.
Plus, Ann’s doctor had told her she was too young for menopause. I recommended a low dose of an FDA-approved transdermal estradiol for each woman.

A month later, Ann sounded upbeat: “My memory is better; I’ve got my mind back! The brain fog has lifted.” Six months later, she reported, “I’m back to my normal self. I feel great. I am so relieved to know that what was happening was just the hormone changes of menopause and I could get my memory back with estradiol.”

Katherine said “My ability to focus on my writing has dramatically improved. I didn’t realize until I felt better just how much I had been slipping in my concentration. I had no idea low estradiol at menopause could wreak such havoc with mental changes. Why doesn’t anyone talk about this?”

Research shows estradiol has multiple memory-enhancing effects on brain neurons, memory-regulating neurotransmitters to preserve our critical thinking, memory, concentration, and focus abilities. Here are a few:
• It promotes growth of new connections (dendrites) between nerve cells.
• It increases density of connections between nerve cells to allow better flow of information along brain pathways.
• Estradiol enhances nerve cells ability to take in nerve growth factor
• It increases production of choline acetyltransferase, an enzyme needed to make the key memory regulating chemical messenger called acetylcholine.
• It improves blood flow and oxygenation to brain cells.
• And it acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory to help prevent damage to nerve cells as we age.

If you�re experiencing memory problems, I recommend these five action steps:
1. Reduce or eliminate lifestyle �memory robbers� like cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana, and high-fat diet.
2. Reduce or eliminate use of prescription medications that can cause or aggravate memory loss: sleeping pills, mood stabilizers, benzodiazepines, narcotic painkillers, tricyclic antidepressants, or anticholinergic medicines (e.g., Detrol and others)
3. Increase aerobic exercise to 30 to 45 minutes five or six days a week. Brisk walking is a great brain booster and fat burner.
4. If your estradiol is low, talk with your doctor about trying an FDA-approved bioidentical estradiol patch, gel, lotion, spray, or pill. Start with a low dose and observe what happens to your clarity of thinking and memory.
5. For more information on hormone connections in memory, read the chapter on ovarian hormones and your brain in my book, It�s My Ovaries, Stupid! Read the free booklets on my Web site, to help you find the right doctor and get the right medical tests.

© HealthDay

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Do you forget names? Do simple words slip your mind? If so, you aren’t alone. It isn’t your imagination, and it is not stress. It may be simply perimenopause, menopause, or long after menopause. Women in all these stages can have memory loss, and there's a common culprit that's easy to treat.
Monday, 12 April 2010 10:42 AM
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