Have you ever heard someone say, “Oops, I’m having a senior moment,” as an excuse for being forgetful or making a silly mistake? Turns out, there’s a lot of truth to that comment! The fatigue and mood changes that accompany age-related hormonal changes can affect your mental alertness.
Your hormones regulate everything from your digestion to your immune system, and even your brain health. Hormonal imbalances can disrupt your sleep, mood, and your mental clarity. Because hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can be higher in your brain than in your bloodstream, an imbalance can affect your brain chemistry and mental awareness. Additionally, estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone contribute to blood flow in your brain which helps protect against loss of memory and even dementia.
A growing body of research suggests that estrogen levels play a role in memory and cognition – with reduced estrogen levels potentially increasing the risks of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other cognitive decline. Specifically, the research suggests that the longer a woman is exposed to estrogen (pre-menopausal) the better her cognition will be when she is older. Low estrogen levels lead to hot flashes, mood swings and difficulty concentrating. High estrogen levels lead to weight gain, change in sleep patterns and memory problems.
Associated with fertility and sustaining pregnancy, the word progesterone actually means “promoting gestation.” Progesterone is classified as a neurosteroid and it helps protect the brain from damage and promotes repair after an injury by enhancing growth of the myelin sheath that protects the nerve fibers. It has a calming effect on the brain and has been used to treat traumatic brain injury and may have a role in treating strokes. A low progesterone level leads to mood swings and memory loss. High progesterone levels can also lead to mood swings as well as dizziness.
Produced by the ovaries in women and testes in men, testosterone contributes to mental sharpness because it strengthens artery muscles and nerves, including those in the brain. Research studies show that low levels of testosterone in men have been associated with risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Low levels of testosterone can cause difficulty with concentration and feelings of depression. Both high and low levels of testosterone can affect cognitive function so it’s important to keep your testosterone levels balanced.
Estrogen, for example, has been proven to play a significant role in brain health and cognitive function. Both men and women report feeling more alert and better work performance from bioidentical hormone treatment.
Sleep, Hormones, and Mental Clarity
Getting enough sleep directly contributes to your mental clarity and can be a vicious cycle. Poor sleep leads to anxiety and anxiety leads to poor sleep. Sleep gives your brain the down time it needs to store the information you are bombarded with during the day in your memory banks.
Sleep deprivation impedes your ability to think clearly and leads to increased adrenaline and cortisol levels. Cortisol is your body’s stress hormone that is best known for regulating your body’s “fight or flight” instinct. That surge of emotion you feel when you swerve to miss an oncoming car is from cortisol. An elevated cortisol level leads to trouble sleeping.
Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythms, or sleep-wake cycles. As you age, your body makes less melatonin. A higher than normal level of melatonin can cause drowsiness and reduced concentration while low levels can cause tiredness during the day and insomnia at night.
Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
Studies have shown that women who initiated hormone therapy earlier showed higher cognitive test scores than those who started taking hormones later. Additionally, both men and women report feeling more alert and better work performance from bioidentical hormone treatment.
Bioidentical hormones are identical to the hormones which are produced naturally in your body. They are so identical, in fact, that your body can’t distinguish the difference.
If you are experiencing poor memory, cognitive decline, difficulty concentrating, depression, or other signs of a hormonal imbalance then consider bioidentical hormone therapy. In addition to improving your mental clarity, it can also help you enjoy more restful sleep, boost your mood, increase your libido, and improve weight loss efforts among other benefits. Take our brief Hormone Balance Quiz if you think you may be experiencing a hormone imbalance.
The Riegel Center focuses on therapies for women and men who are 30+ years of age with age-related hormonal change symptoms. The Riegel Center of Plano offers customized therapies in all 50 states developed and available only through Dr. Riegel. Virtual hormone therapy is also offered so you can easily start services from the comfort of your own home. Contact the Riegel Center if you are looking to improve your mental clarity and heighten your awareness with hormone therapy.