Health Check Tuesday: Memory Loss and PCOS

A big HELLO to everyone this Tuesday morning šŸ™‚ Today’s post is touching on a personal subject for me, one I find embarrassing at times. I get that we all have our moments of forgetfulness, some more than others, but when you have a child who has a memory of an elephant (so it seems) and you can’t remember what your child told you and then that child gets upset because you forgot. It happens a lot for me and most of the time I’ll admit that I did forget but the pain of knowing that I forgot will cause a form of depression. But it’s more than not remembering what my child has told me, I’ll forget to several tasks within the day, forget what I’m supposed to do, walk into a room and not remember why. If I don’t do something at the time that I think about it I forget about, writing it down doesn’t always help. I love making lists but I’ll forget to look at it. It’s not a scary thing, just annoying and not something I like to talk about.Ā 

This had me thinking last night, what if there’s a link, a connection, between my bad memory and PCOS? Remember, this affects the entire body, from head to toe. Perusing some message boards I read several posts from other PCOS women voicing the same concern. Some who were truly wondering if there was a link, others just saying they had always been that.Ā  Last night I did some searching and looking through medical studies (honestly unable to make heads or tails of what I read), until I found an article from 2008 that broke it down for me.

As a women with polycystic ovary syndrome, you tend to have higher levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. And you tend to be more depressed.

Chronic high levels of cortisol are known to shrink a portion of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is part of the limbic system and plays a role in long term memory and spatial navigation. The limbic system is a set of brain structures that support a variety of functions including emotion, behavior and long term memory.

Recent studies using brain scans have shown that shrinkage of the hippocampus is associated with brain impairments seen in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as chronic stress and reduced self-esteem.

For example, a recent study at the Montreal Neurological Institute in Canada showed that increased cortisol production in response to stress correlated with reduced volume of the hippocampus. The smaller size of the hippocampus as associated with reduced self-esteem and feelings of being in control. Self-esteem, the value we place on ourselves, affects our health, life expectancy and life satisfaction.

Another brain scan study from Umea University in Sweden of people with early Alzheimer’s showed a correlation between reduced hippocampus volume and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Alright, sounds like information overload at first šŸ™‚

Here’s what the hippocampus looks likes. Kind of reminds me of a horseshoe…sort of.

The article goes on to say…

So what’s the bottom line?

Cortisol is a stress hormone that you may not have heard about. But it’s known that women with PCOS often have chronically high levels of cortisol. We also know that too much cortisol over a period of time causes a portion of your brain to atrophy (shrink).

The brain atrophy is associated with cognitive dysfunction, dementia or early Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and low self-esteem.

So what can be done? Here are four ways to reduce your cortisol production:

(1) reduce sources of chronic stress in your life

(2) be physically active

(3) eat a healthier diet

(4) lose weight if you are overweight

As a parent reducing my chronic stress is impossible right now, a good place to start would be number three. A healthier diet according to your Nutritional Type. We’re not all the same, therefore, we all will not respond the same to any one particular diet. So don’t jump on any bandwagon just because it seems to work for a handful of people. Do your research and get to know your body, what kinds of foods are you addicted to, which ones seem to do the most harm…those are the foods you will want to try to eliminate first. I’m addicted to gluten and yeast. I love pastas especially and my Mom’s homemade bread (heaven help me) is out of this world! Both are terrible for me because both cause me to gain weight. For me, it is best that I avoid these things as much as possible. Does that mean everybody should do that? No, only if you notice that you absolutely need to. Same goes for fruit and vegetables as well, not everyone can eat corn, bananas, snow peas, peas, oranges, mangoes, beets, pineapples, tomatoes, apples, carrots and papayas. Anything that is naturally high in fructose isn’t safe for most diabetics and people who need to lower their carbohydrates. This is why I’m not on board with this new food plate thing (in lieu of the food pyramid). It doesn’t work for everybody, so if you want to get serious about your overall health, start with what you eat.

Next, get active. Did you know that even 10 minutes of daily exercise will boost your heart health? While 30 minutes is preferred, if you’re just starting out it is recommended to get at least 10 minutes of exercise. Any kind, walking is the first thing that most people think of. If you’re unsure about walking in your neighborhood do some laps in your local mall or at the Y, or get a walking DVD for your home. Leslie Sansone has a few to choose from, comes in handy during the winter months! Water aerobics is a great choice for senior citizens as well as the morbidly obese. It’s gentle on your body, kind to the joints, and is a great way to get started on the road to a healthier you šŸ™‚

Brain activities, now I haven’t looked too much into these for myself, but I hear they are great for improving memory health. AARP has a nice assortment of brain games to choose from: private eye, shapes and colors, countdown, etc. Mind Games dot com is a great website loaded with free brain games, the best game will have the most stars…from the looks of it that game would be a game aptly named Brain Waves šŸ™‚ Of course you don’t have to play online games to work out your brain, reading has great benefits, it stretches the mind, and every time you learn something new you get a new wrinkle in your brain šŸ˜‰ Puzzles are another fun and challenging exercise, I’m not great at them myself and perhaps that means I need to spend more time doing them. Next time you’re at your local Dollar Tree store pick up a few crossword puzzles to keep on hand. They’re small and easy to transport, keep a couple in the car, next to your favorite chair in the family room, or in your nightstand drawer.

If you want to further improve your brain health you can take daily supplements such as Ginkgo Biloba and Siberian Ginseng two of the most widely known and popular brain supplements. They can be found at your local health food store, GNC,, Walmart, Kroger, andĀ 

To answer my question: yes there indeed a possible link between memory loss and PCOS. Is that true for every woman? No, it will depend on your cortisol level and your overall health. If you are at all concerned about this please see your doctor and ask about getting tested. I know I will take better assessment of the stress in my life and see what I can eliminate or reduce. I’m sure it could be as easy as turning off the computer šŸ™‚ Hope this has helped someone else out there as it has me. Have a blessed day!

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2 thoughts on “Health Check Tuesday: Memory Loss and PCOS

  1. Pingback: ~Health Check Tuesday Celebration~ | Night Owl Kitchen

  2. Hi, I have PCOS too and suffers bad memory since i lost my regular cycle and i am too young to have such bad memory. I read that most women with PCOS also suffers Vit B deficiency. Upon researching, A number of Vitamin Bs are essential in maintaining a healthy brain. I am not really sure about the correlation but my theory is PCOS coupled with Vitamin B deficiency might be connected to bad memory.

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