Anna Richardson health: Star’s ’embarrassing’ memory problems could be sign of dementia
Anna Richardson celebrates 50th in 2020
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The Channel 4 programme which was hosted by Sandy Toksvig aimed to see if a bunch of celebrities could improve their brains. Being put through their paces on general knowledge topics followed by quickfire challenges, the celebrities were then tested on their ability to remember things on random topics such as the Jurassic era, American hip-hop and planetary science. For Anna Richard who was already struggling to remember seemingly simple things, the challenge was fierce.
In 2018, Anna started to realise she was struggling to remember names, words and daily items. Thinking it was just symptoms of menopause, the presenter started to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
After her symptoms did not get any better, Anna seemed that she would have to deal with the brain fog for the rest of her career.
She said: “Being middle-aged, a middle-aged professional and being a middle-aged woman in particular, and going through the menopause, I just noticed that my mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be and that I wasn’t able to retain as much information.
“I started to struggle with being able to articulate myself, being able to remember lists, being able to retain information.
“I’m a trained journalist. I used to be incredibly fluent and I used to be able to remember a lot. I work in TV. So I was bothered. I was really bothered about the fact that my memory was struggling.”
The presenter, whose father suffers from dementia admitted that she now feels “embarrassed” to ask people if they can repeat things as she once prided herself on her top-notch memory.
She continued to say: “In my job, I have to repeat things a lot and I can usually get things in one or two takes and I really pride myself on being efficient.
“And suddenly you hit the stage where you go, “I’m really sorry, guys. You’re going to have to remind me again.’ It really does affect your confidence and your identity for sure.”
How to recognise brain fog
The Ohio State University is described as being forgetful and having trouble concentrating.
Although small declines in memory, processing speed and organisational skills are all part of normal aging it is when these small impairments shouldn’t interfere with your ability to function at work or with day-to-day activities.
Therefore if you feel as though cognitive issues are becoming concerning and affecting you more and more, it is important to seek a professional medical opinion.
Does menopause cause dementia?
It has been recognised for many years that more women than men are affected by Alzheimer’s – a form of dementia. Research at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference indicated that the disease may even spread differently in the brains of women than in men.
The Alzheimer’s Society suggests this increased risk is due to the hormone oestrogen. Whilst both men and women produce oestrogen, it’s the main female sex hormone and so women usually have more of it. When women go through menopause, their bodies stop producing as much oestrogen.
With the levels of oestrogen decreasing, the number of connections in one particular area of the brain – the hippocampus which is important for memory and certain types of learning is affected.
Chemicals such as serotonin, acetylcholine and dopamine – which are used to send signals throughout the brain – are also affected when levels of oestrogen decrease when women go through menopause. Due to these factors, experts believe that women of a certain age are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.
Studies are also looking into whether replenishing oestrogen levels using HRT can reduce women’s risk of dementia Unfortunately however, they have been inconclusive and contradictory.
For example, some studies of women who were already using HRT during menopause found that their risk of dementia was lower than those not on HRT. However, other studies found no strong evidence for this. There is some evidence that HRT may even increase dementia risk.
For now, risk-free ways in which memory can be improved are a safe bet to overcome symptoms of brain fog.
The Mayo Clinic provides several ways in which memory can be improved. This includes:
- Include physical activity in your daily routine
- Stay mentally active
- Socialise regularly
- Get organised
- Sleep well
- Eat a healthy diet
- Manage chronic conditions.
Similarly, like Anna, if symptoms do not improve it is important to get medical tests and find out if there is the potential of another underlying health condition.
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