How women can prevent dementia in their 40s (and beyond)
For women, this stage of life can be especially difficult mentally and emotionally due to perimenopause. After decades of menstrual cycles (and maybe a pregnancy or a few), post-puberty, your hormones change to prepare you for menopause. With this comes hormonal changes that can have a profound effect on your cognitive functioning and overall brain health.
During this transition, many women experience hormonal brain fog, meaning clouded thoughts, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating, due to the drop in estrogen and progesterone that leads to menopause. This phenomenon can be simply disappointing, as it significantly affects cognitive functions. (For specific tips on reducing mental fog and promoting mental clarity and productivity during perimenopause, check out this article.)
According to Lisa Mosconi, Ph.D., a neuroscientist, nutritionist, and associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, lower estrogen levels, in particular, may do more than just increase the likelihood of brain fog. In this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, she explains how reproductive hormones play an important role in protecting our brains from the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other damage that contributes to neurodegenerative diseases.
“The interaction between the brain and reproductive organs is really critical to brain health and aging, especially in women. We tend to think of testosterone. [and] estrogens involved in reproduction, childbirth. But in fact, these hormones have a great effect on our brain,” says Mosconi.
These reproductive hormones cause neurons to transport glucose and produce energy, so if your hormone levels are high, your brain’s energy is high. “But what happens with testosterone is that it doesn’t decline as much over time; whereas in women, estrogen levels drop dramatically when women go through menopause,” she explains. “If you think these hormones have some kind of superpower for the brain, women lose their superpowers around menopause, right? And the brain remains a little more vulnerable.”