Even when I was in my 30’s, I still had days when I couldn’t find my keys or dozed off into a blank trance. During perimenopause and menopause, you may find this only gets worse and more frustrating. You’re digging through your purse in a rage or calling every one of your kids’ names before getting to the right one. I’ve even called out the dog’s name before my daughter’s!

Rest assured, brain fog is totally common and doesn’t warrant alarm. Dementia, not so much. So, the pressing question, of course, is: when should we worry that those lost keys are a cause for concern? Is it just menopause, or could it be the early warning signs of dementia?

Don’t get flushed in a hot panic. Here’s what to know. Currently, research does not show a direct link between menopause and dementia. It’s important to remember that there is a laundry list of causes for brain fog… even if that list is misplaced somewhere!! Most of them are far less scary than dementia, so read on. Here are some of the most common causes of brain fog:

According to Science Daily, women are more likely to develop AD than men. Mass General Brigham researchers studied the relationship between the risk of AD and the age of menopause, along with the use of hormones.  They found that entering menopause early (spontaneously before age 40 or before age 45 due to surgical intervention) may increase your risk of AD.  However, they noted that women who start hormone therapy around the age of menopause did not show increased risk. Read more about this in Menopause Mondays® How Menopause Affects the Brain.

The murky mind you feel mid-brain fog is very different from the cognitive maze associated with dementia– though some overlap exists. These are the top ten warning signs of dementia:

  1. Memory loss: This is an obvious first. But think of memory loss related to dementia being less of an “OMG, I have no idea where my phone is. Can you call it?!” Rather, with dementia, your memory doesn’t just lapse but disappears altogether. You won’t be able to remember the thing you forgot!
  2. Language: Dementia can make us forget simple words or substitute the wrong ones, making sentences jumbled and difficult to understand.
  3. Difficulty with tasks: Not just part of a task like forgetting that sweet treat at the store while buying groceries. Dementia can make us struggle to remember the entire process of buying groceries.
  4. Spatial awareness: Like distance or direction while driving a car.
  5. Disorientation: Dementia can cause us to experience difficulty finding our way around a familiar place or feel confused about where we are. Sometimes this can even make us think we are back in a past time of our life.
  6. Confusing items: Brain fog makes it hard to remember where we set our keys. Dementia can make it hard to remember what keys are even for.
  7. Poor judgment
  8. Change in mood and behavior: Mood swings are nothing new or shocking to the menopausal crew, but swift changes in mood and personality, like paranoia or withdrawal, can be a sign of dementia.
  9. Change in abstract thinking: Algebra is already a mystery, in my opinion, but when a person has dementia, they no longer recognize what things like numbers or financial math means.
  10. Loss of initiative: Dementia can cause a person to lose interest in their usual frequent activities oftentimes even when prompted by loved ones.

The key thing to remember– besides your keys themselves– is that dementia affects more than memory. The symptoms of dementia keep you from being able to function in your normal day-to-day life. There is a big difference between dementia and the occasional mists of brain fog during perimenopause and menopause.

If any one of the ten warning signs sticks out to you personally, do not brush it off and assume you’re “fine”! Act quickly. Check with your doctor in order to help evaluate the nature and severity of your symptoms. Advocate for yourself and find a menopause specialist who will equally advocate for you and your needs during this vital phase of life. If you notice these changes or signs in your girlfriends or loved ones… share this blog with them and spread awareness! Use my Menopause Mondays® Hot News Flash as your menopause resource center. Offer each other support while learning about all things menopause. If you’re beginning your menopause journey and are overwhelmed with the onslaught of information available, no worries.  I’ve got you.  Read my Perimenopause and Menopause 101 Primer! No homework is necessary!

My motto: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

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*EllenDolgen.com does not recommend, endorse, or make any representation about any tests, studies, practices, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, healthcare providers, physicians, or medical institutions that may be mentioned or referenced.

This post originally appeared on ellendolgen.com

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