Welcome to the better half of your life. Believe it or not, according to The New York Times bestselling author of “The Upgrade: How the Female Brain Gets Stronger and Better in Midlife and Beyond“, neuropsychiatrist Dr Louann Brizendine, women’s brains get improved in midlife, in a way that creates new power and zest for life, a bracing clarity, and a laser-like sense of purpose if you know how to seize it.
“Women are at a place where they can really grab their authenticity, stand in the centre of it, and own who they are and who they want to be“, explains Dr Brizendine. Why? Because this is the phase of life we emerge into when we exit the hormonal war zone, finally able to see who we are, what we want and how we want to live.
“Perimenopause, menopause, postmenopause are a medical diagnosis, pharmaceutical words and a very narrow shaping of what’s happening to us in our lives”, she explains. “The idea that it’s a transition and an upgrade is multifaceted, more of what I call the whole-woman approach to the stage of life that we’re in. And the fact that you have a whole new breath of life for this second half of life, that’s the concept I want to get across“.
Basically, after analyzing the latest research, Brizendine has found that in midlife the female brain rewires as it undergoes neurological changes in response to menopause allowing women to pursue their own fulfilment instead of responding to reproductive physiological impulses.
“All the neural pathways that are being connected and disconnected because of the flood of estrogen and then progesterone during the menstrual cycle no longer occur”, she says. “Like that path along the shoreline, the tide isn’t washing away connections every month. And because that’s not going on in your brain all the time, you have much more stability, and you feel more centred, focused, and direct. You can now stand higher and see further with more clarity“.
Amongst other advantages of midlife, she also mentioned that a change in the ratio of estrogen to testosterone makes women more direct and able to speak out. There’s also a drop in anxiety that allows the female brain to flip its attentional style from multitasking to focusing on one thing at a time.
“The medical profession views the ‘perimenopause’ and ‘menopause’ as a change in a woman’s reproductive status. But this is wrong: the impact is almost entirely neurological”, she continues. “Hot flushes, brain fog, anxiety and sleep disruption indicate glitches in the oestrogen-regulated nervous system. It is the brain that is most affected by these changes“.
Amongst the strategies she recommends to maintain mental and physical health as women age are: pelvic floor exercises, eating plenty of protein, and making a “mood log” to detect emotional patterns and inform medication regimens.
“As women go through this stage, it’s important to know that this is coming, so then you can seize that stability in the brain, and feel empowered by this idea that you have an upgrade, a chance to do something new“, she concludes. And we at CrunchyTales couldn’t agree more.