Brain fog and “word finding”…Huh?
Did you know there’s a word for when you can’t remember the word? It’s aptly called Word Finding. More specific than all the fun of brain fog, it is a very distinct symptom of menopause.
You know – “what’s that word for the thing with the four legs and you sit on it and there are many different styles, and …”
“um”, began the response from my friend, “chair?”
What is Brain fog?
Word finding and “brain fog” are also known as Menopause Related Cognitive Impairment, according to neurologist Dr. Gayatri Devi. This condition occurs in women during their 40s and 50s. “Women in the prime of life who suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them,” she said. Dr. Devi believes the correct diagnosis “is missed more often than not.” (1)
Dr. Devi recently wrote in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology about a woman with excellent memory whose recall and mood had steadily declined. Dr. Devi was able to correlate her symptoms to the decline of estrogen in the brain. She notes that this condition occurs in all menopausal women to varying degrees. Some women’s brains are more sensitive to falling estrogen levels than others.
Dr. Pauline M. Maki of the University of Illinois at Chicago stated doctors and patients often attribute” brain fog” to sleep deprivation from night sweats. While these are “taxing to the brain,” Dr. Maki said and can augment the severity of cognitive issues, they are not the primary cause. (1)
Can anything be done to make it go away?
Having diagnosed her patient with menopausal cognitive impairment, Dr. Devi prescribed hormone replacement therapy. The patient’s cognitive issues cleared up within 15 months. Her memory and former cognitive abilities restored.
Dr. Gail A. Greendale at the David Geffen School of Medicine and the University of California, Los Angeles says the postmenopausal brain adjusts to having little or no estrogen. She studied 2,362 women over four years. Subjects with menopausal cognitive impairment recovered their cognitive abilities upon becoming postmenopausal.
Her study concluded that menopausal cognitive decline may be temporary, and that the postmenopausal brain adapts to the reduced estrogen levels postmenopausal women typically experience. (1)
There are also five practical things women can do to manage word-finding situations in real-time. (2)
- Keep talking. Try not getting hung up on the word you’re seeking. Keep talking and try describing instead. It’s okay to be a little wordy. Add the word to the conversation later if it springs to mind.
- Use a synonym if you’re struggling to find a specific word. A synonym is a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same thing as another word or phrase in the same language.
- Relax. The brain tends to work on problems in the background anyway. If you’re not trying to remember the word, your mind may find it for you. Give it time.
- Reframe the word. Try using association, repeated use, and visual imagery to make the word stand out more clearly in your mind.
- Focus on brain health. Exercise, stress management, maintaining a brain-healthy diet, and active mental stimulation all increase your brain health.