Where are my keys? If it's the umpteenth time you've asked that question today, you're undoubtedly frustrated. Chances are you want to find the cause -- and fix it before you go and lose your keys again!
If you are in your 40s, 50s, and beyond, there are a few possibilities worth considering: Of course, there's perimenopause and menopause, which are both infamous for an inability to focus and memory loss. In fact, a new study from the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that many women experience cognitive changes during menopause. (Watch Ellen on the TODAY Show discussing the study!)
But then there's also Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and its own unique brand of spacey behavior. Not just for kids, about 4.4 percent of adults in the United States show symptoms of the neurobiological disorder, according to one study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
So which one has got the best of your brain, or is it both? It's a question women should seriously ask themselves when seeking hormone happiness, according to ADHD coach and consultant Roxanne Fouché, co-founder of the San Diego-based Focus For Effectiveness.
While it's commonly believed that ADHD is more common in boys than in girls, the truth of the matter is that females are often victims of missed diagnoses during childhood, according to Fouché. "Because girls and women are less hyperactive and have more inattentive symptoms, women often go undiagnosed until their 30s, 40s, or later when there is a widening gap between life's demands and the individual's abilities to focus, organize or complete tasks," she says.
What's more, perimenopause and menopause is a critical time for physicians to catch ADHD in their female patients. Why? Estrogen levels decrease during this time, contributing to an increased risk of depression, irritability, sleep problems, anxiety, panic, difficulty concentrating, as well as memory and cognitive dysfunctions, according to Fouché. "Women with ADHD frequently report a worsening of their ADHD symptoms during these low-estrogen states," she adds.
The first step is determining if your brain fog is new -- or simply worse than it was before. "If a woman has only recently begun having difficulty with memory, concentration, and mental fuzziness, it may be related to menopause," Fouché says. "If, on the other hand, these symptoms have been present since childhood and are getting worse, it is possible that the effects of declining estrogen levels make it that much more difficult for her to cope with undiagnosed ADHD."
Either way, the solution is simple: seek a clear diagnosis and treatment. If the symptoms are new, visit a perimenopause and menopause expert who can evaluate your mental fuzziness. If they've always been around (just not as bad as they are now), The National Resource Center of ADHD advises that you visit a specialist who is familiar with ADHD in adult women. That could be a behavioral neurologist, psychiatrist, or clinical or educational psychologist. While there's no one "test" to diagnose ADHD, typical evaluations include ADHD symptom checklists, standardized behavior rating scales, a discussion of past and present symptoms of ADHD, as well as information gleaned from family and significant others, according to The National Resource Center of ADHD.
Navigating both perimenopause and menopause? Fouché suggests addressing your variety of symptoms by developing a comprehensive, multi-faceted plan that includes:
Use of medications, if deemed appropriate by your physician. Stimulants (including Ritalin and Adderall) balance neurotransmitters in the brain to improve the symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity. Non-stimulant medications such as Strattera and antidepressants may be good options if you can't take stimulants because of existing heart problems, according to Mayo Clinic.
Consultation with a perimenopause and menopause expert. Bio-identical hormone-replacement therapy and lifestyle modifications can ease menopausal symptoms and help you achieve hormone happiness.
Focus on self-care. Women often take care of everyone else in their lives before they get to themselves. But by putting yourself first -- getting regular exercise and eating a well-balanced diet, you can alleviate many symptoms of both ADHD and menopause to get your mojo back. (Check out the best foods for fighting menopausal symptoms.)
Professional support and guidance. A licensed psychologist, an organizational expert, a certified ADHD coach -- or any combination of the three -- can help you sort through the brain clutter. Find an ADHD coach near you through the ADHD Coaches Organization.
For us women, there's little in life that's more frustrating than Swiss cheese brain. We've got things to do and people to see, after all! Lucky for our minds, schedule, and keys, help is just around the corner. All you have to do is reach out!
Let's hang out! Monday, August 12th at 5:30pm PST/8:30pm EST. Ellen is hosting her Menopause Mondays Google Hangouts: Where the Sisterhood helps the Sisterhood. Start sending your questions in here! Get ready to talk menopause with Ellen at this free online event! Details and RSVP here.
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Ellen Dolgen is an outspoken women's health and wellness advocate, menopause awareness expert, author, and speaker.
After struggling through the silence that surrounds menopause, Ellen resolved to help women reach out and end the confusion, embarrassment, and less-than-lovely symptoms that come with "the change." Her passion to be a "sister" to all women fueled Ellen's book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of her women's wellness journey, and in response to the overwhelming thirst of her ever-expanding audience for empowering information, Ellen's weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM was born.
Menopause MondaysTM allows Ellen an expansive platform from which she broadens her discussion of menopause, women's health, and life as a menopausal (and fabulous!) woman. Her weekly Menopause News Flash provides a one-stop shop for the latest menopause and women's health news and research, allowing women the access and know-how needed to take charge of their health and happiness. In addition to Ellen's ever-growing social media presence, EllenDolgen.com has fast become "the place" on the web for informative and entertaining women's menopause and wellness engagement. In 2012 EllenDolgen.com was named first on the list of the "Best Menopause Blogs" by Healthline. Ellen is also a regular contributor to over a dozen leading women's health blogs. Her motto is: Reaching out is IN! Suffering in silence is OUT!
Ellen has appeared on the "TODAY Show," the "Rachael Ray Show," "The Doctors," Oprah Radio, Playboy Radio, NPR's "Tell Me More," Doctor Radio, and dozens of regional and national media outlets. Ellen is also one of the first regular contributors to debut on The Huffington Post's recently added site, Huff/Post50, which targets 116 million Americans over the age of 50.
The Alzheimer's Prevention Cookbook by Dr. Marwan Sabbagh and Beau MacMillan. Published by Ten Speed Press. (The following slides were reprinted with permission from The Alzheimer’s Prevention Cookbook: Recipes to Boost Brain Health by Dr. Marwan Sabbagh and Beau MacMillan, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group)
The key to this recipe is using a ripe, in-season peach. It’s always good to get to know the produce guys at your local grocery store because they will let you know when peaches are in their prime. Peaches contain numerous nutrients that are good for your body, including niacin, thiamin, potassium, and calcium. They are also high in beta-carotene, which promotes healthy hearts and eyes. The darker the peach’s color, the more vitamin A it has in its pulp. Peaches may also help in maintaining healthy urinary and digestive functions. There’s some evidence that flaxseed oil may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and even diabetes.
MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS 11/2 cups apple juice 1 ripe peach, peeled, pitted, and chopped (about 3/4 cup) 3/4 ripe banana, peeled and chopped 1 tablespoon vanilla yogurt 6 ice cubes 2 teaspoons honey 2 teaspoons flaxseed oil Combine the apple juice, peach, banana, yogurt, and ice in a blender and puree until smooth. Add the honey and flaxseed oil and puree briefly to incorporate. Pour into glasses and serve right away.
Think outside the (cereal) box: fried rice is a great way to fuel up with carbs in the morning. With brown rice, lots of fresh vegetables, and a minimal amount of fat, this recipe is a healthy take on fried rice and is high in vitamin B6. Lop chong is a dried, cooked Chinese sausage with a slightly sweet and smoky flavor; it will require a trip to the Asian grocery store, but you can choose to leave it out.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS Fried Rice 2 tablespoons chopped lop chong (Chinese sausage; optional) 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 tablespoon chopped garlic 1 tablespoon peeled, chopped fresh ginger 1 green onion, white and green parts, chopped 2 tablespoons diced red onion 1 or 2 leaves baby bok choy, thinly sliced 1/4 cup shredded red cabbage 5 sugar snap peas, cut into thin strip on the diagonal 2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice 4 tablespoons soy sauce 4 tablespoons mirin Eggs and Garnishes 2 large eggs, beaten 1 teaspoon sesame seeds 2 tablespoons toasted cashews, chopped 1 green onion, white and green parts, sliced thin on the diagonal 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro To make the fried rice, in a large wok or large skillet over high heat, fry the lop chong until rendered, less than a minute. Transfer the lop chong to a paper towel–lined plate and discard the fat. Set the wok over high heat and heat until very hot. Add the oil to the wok. Add the garlic, ginger, chopped green onion, red onion, bok choy, cabbage, and snap peas. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the vegetables have softened and you can smell the ginger. Add the rice and continue to cook, stirring, until everything is coated, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the soy sauce and mirin and toss well. Remove the wok from the heat. To cook the eggs, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray the pan with nonstick cooking spray, and then pour in the beaten eggs. Cook, gently stirring the eggs, until scrambled but still moist. Transfer fried rice to a serving bowl and top with the scrambled eggs. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, toasted cashews, and diagonally cut green onion and serve right away.
This is not your average tuna sandwich. For one thing, it’s more like tuna tartare on bread. For another, it’s a very brain-healthy meal. Spinach Pesto Yogurt, not mayonnaise, holds the tuna mixture together, which keeps the amount of saturated fat to a minimum. Tuna is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, the pistachios provide vitamin E, and the raisins are a good source of polyphenol antioxidants. Because the tuna is not cooked in this recipe, be sure to purchase sashimi-grade tuna; ask the fishmonger if you aren’t sure about the quality of the tuna on offer at the seafood counter.
MAKES 2 SANDWICHES 8 ounces sashimi-grade ahi tuna, diced small 2 tablespoons Spinach Pesto Yogurt 2 tablespoons golden raisins 1/4 cup shelled unsalted roasted pistachios, chopped Juice of 1/2 lemon 4 slices rye bread, toasted 1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil Spinach Pesto Yogurt Makes about 3 cups 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 cup pine nuts 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1 clove garlic, peeled Juice of 1 lemon Pinch of salt Pinch of freshly ground black pepper 1 cup low-fat or nonfat plain yogurt In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, Spinach Pesto Yogurt, raisins, pistachios, and lemon juice, and mix well. Lay out two of the bread slices on a work surface and divide the tuna mixture evenly among them. Put the alfalfa sprouts into a small bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, and toss to combine. Top each portion of tuna with half of the alfalfa sprouts and top with the remaining slices of bread. Cut each sandwich in half and serve right away. Combine the spinach, olive oil, pine nuts, cheese, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender and puree until well blended. Pour the mixture into a bowl, add the yogurt, and whisk until incorporated. Serve slightly chilled. The mixture will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS Tomato and Sweet Pepper Stew 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic 1 small shallot, finely chopped 1 fennel bulb, diced large 2 yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced large 3 yellow tomatoes, cored and diced large Pinch of saffron threads 2 tablespoons Pernod or other anise liqueur, such as ouzo or anisette 1 cup white wine 2 cups Brain-Boosting Broth Salt and freshly ground black pepper Fish 2 tablespoons olive oil 4 (6-ounce) skin-on striped bass fillets Salt and freshly ground pepper 11/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish Preheat the oven to 350°F. To make the stew, in a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, shallot, fennel, and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and saffron and continue to cook until the tomatoes soften slightly, about 2 minutes. Pour in the Pernod, bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring, until almost evaporated. Add the white wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half, about 5 minutes. Pour in the broth, season with salt and pepper, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes to bring the flavors together. While the stew is simmering, cook the fish. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Score the fish fillets with a knife and season them with salt and pepper. Add the fish fillets to the skillet skin side down and cook until the skin is golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Slide the skillet into the oven and cook until the fish skin is opaque and flaky, about 5 minutes. Divide the stew among four plates and place a fish fillet on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away. Brain-Boosting Broth Makes 2 quarts 8 quarts water 3 carrots, coarsely chopped 2 white onions, coarsely chopped 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped 2 bulbs fennel, coarsely chopped 1 parsnip, coarsely chopped 12 cloves garlic, chopped 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped Stems from 1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch green onions, green and white parts 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise 1 tablespoon salt 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 2 cloves 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 1 bay leaf Combine all of the ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 2 hours. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Spaghetti squash is an often-overlooked vegetable. But it’s a very powerful ingredient from a brain-health perspective: it’s low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol, and a good source of niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid--plus spaghetti squash is a very good source of vitamin C. In this recipe, strands of baked spaghetti squash are the backdrop for sweet caramelized onions that contrast against salty, savory Parmesan cheese. This dish will appeal to adults and kids alike, and it’s a great way to get pasta lovers to eat more vegetables.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS Olive oil 1/2 spaghetti squash (about 2 pounds), seeded 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced Curry Salt 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives 1 ripe tomato, cored, seeded, and diced Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish Preheat the oven to 350°F. Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet and the flesh of the squash with a little olive oil. Set the squash half cut side down on the baking sheet. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of water over the squash and bake, uncovered, until a fork inserted into the thickest part of the flesh meets no resistance, 30 to 45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Using a fork, scrape the squash from the skin into a medium bowl; the flesh will separate into spaghetti-like strands (you should have about 21/2 cups). Return the skillet with the onion to medium heat and add the squash. Cook, tossing gently, just until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with Curry Salt; go easy because the cheese will add salt, too. Toss in the cheese and chives and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with the tomatoes and cilantro and serve right away. Curry Salt Makes about 1/2 cup 1/2 cup fleur de sel 4 teaspoons curry powder Mix the salt and curry powder until well combined. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (the flavor of the salt gets better with age). This recipe will not go bad over time.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS 11/2 cups Brain-Boosting Broth 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed 1 teaspoon curry powder 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger 5 to 7 green onions, white and green parts, chopped 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted 1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped Pinch of salt Pinch of freshly ground black pepper Juice of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the quinoa, curry powder, and ginger. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a rimmed baking sheet, distribute in an even layer, and let cool to room temperature. When cooled, put the quinoa into a medium bowl and add the green onions, basil, almonds, and cherries. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and toss to combine. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil and toss again. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled. Brain-Boosting Broth Makes 2 quarts 8 quarts water 3 carrots, coarsely chopped 2 white onions, coarsely chopped 2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped 2 bulbs fennel, coarsely chopped 1 parsnip, coarsely chopped 12 cloves garlic, chopped 1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped Stems from 1/2 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 bunch green onions, green and white parts 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise 1 tablespoon salt 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 2 cloves 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried rosemary 1 bay leaf Combine all of the ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, for 2 hours. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
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