by Melissa Chichester
This could be a sign of brain fog. Cognitive health concerns are on the rise in the United States, and rightly so. According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death for Americans, and one-third of individuals over 85 have dementia. Harvard Medical School estimates that by the year 2050, 115 million people worldwide may have dementia. They also cite that every 4 seconds globally, someone is diagnosed with dementia. As researchers uncover more and more about brain health every year, people are doing now more than ever to support cognitive health. Within this concern there is a lot of talk about brain fog, but what is it, and what causes it?
An inability to focus, memory problems, poor concentration, and a lack of mental comprehension are all signs of brain fog. Confusion, slow thinking, and poor problem-solving skills are other indicators of brain fog.
Although it might seem like its own medical condition, brain fog is actually caused by other health conditions.
Sometimes brain fog (also known as mental fatigue) is caused by normal life stressors, but if it is persistent and doesn’t improve over time, a doctor will need to run diagnostic tests to see what other symptoms accompany it.
Stress: One of the most common causes of brain fog is stress. While stress is a normal part of life for everyone, when the off switch isn’t flipped, the brain becomes exhausted. When stress is chronic, it becomes harder to concentrate and think. Stress also leads to a lack of sleep, another contributor to brain fog. Too little sleep leads to confused thoughts and can even cause as much cognitive impairment as blood alcohol levels over the legal driving limit (.1%)!
Diet: Healthy eating helps keep the mind clear, sharp, and focused. Heavily processed foods and a high-sugar diet may cause a foggy mind, but food sensitivities can also be a factor. It is also important to eat a well-balanced diet to get attain the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Nutrient deficiencies may also be associated with brain fog.
To learn what foods contribute to brain fog, keep a food log after eating, and pay attention to the quality of concentration.
If you notice a correlation between what you eat and brain fog, discuss the results with your doctor to make dietary changes.
Medication: When the body isn’t used to a medication, it can interfere with cognitive function. This is especially common for cancer patients and is even referred to as “chemo brain.” If your body is experiencing any side effect from a starting a new medication, it is always best to talk to a doctor.
Medical conditions: Many medical conditions can interfere with cognitive function, including diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, migraine disorders, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, inflammation, and anemia. Only a physician can identify if a medical disorder is the cause of brain fog.
Women’s health concerns: For women, hormones play a large role in influencing cognitive function. The term “baby brain” is a common hallmark of pregnancy and may lead to occasional forgetfulness. Menopause is another cause of brain fog due to fluctuating hormones.
Persistent signs of brain fog should always be discussed with a medical professional.