Pat Lea, 72, a longtime friend of England’s, started to forget words at the age of 48, impair her ability to talk in public and provoke countless embarrassing times as menopause approaches. Lea, then a housekeeping manager in a London district, tried to make that clear and then started writing her notes in advance, but things got worse.
“At first it seemed innocuous, but was intensified,” she says.
One day, while giving a presentation to an audience of about four dozen on new government legislation, someone asked her a question — and her mind was blank.
“It was like a fog has gone down into my brain,” she says.
During that time, she attributes her brain fog and memory lapses to perimenopause, a stage before menopause when hormones change and times become irregular. She’s not alone. And not alone. Often women report these and other symptoms, such as depression and inability to focus, as menopause approaches.
“I have patients who are constantly complaining about their brain function,” said Cindy Parnes, a gynaecologist and founder of the Montvale New Jersey Women’s Wellness Centre. “They are worried. They are concerned. But I tell them that there are many Hallmark cards, and if Hallmark is making cards, it’s because many people can relate to that.”
Up to two-thirds of women in perimeteropause report cognitive issues in the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, although estimates of the extent of women affected differ from experts. What causes these deficits – hormones or other factors – and whether they continue after menopause is also still uncertain.
However, with all the uncertainty, scientists do not doubt these problems and can be disruptive.
“Growing evidence suggests that it is real,” says Miriam Weber from Rochester University, Associate Professor of Neurology and Obstestry and Gynecology, whose research suggests that symptoms usually begin during perimenopause.
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