As if hot flashes and irritability weren’t enough to handle, women going through menopause also worry about the risk of memory loss. Some of the common cognitive concerns relating to memory loss that are reported by women going through menopause include trouble with routine mental tasks and remembering what was once easily retrievable information. A lot of research has delved into evaluating the link between menopause and memory loss, and we’re now beginning to understand even more.
The results of a recent study confirmed that women in their 40s and 50s do in fact experience symptoms of memory loss, as a result of menopause, but that the effects are not necessarily permanent. The study followed 117 middle-aged women, all of whom were in different stages of menopause. Researchers conducted cognitive tests that focused specifically on verbal learning, attention, fine motor skills, and working memory, all of which affect memory loss.
In the areas of verbal learning and memory, as well as in motor function, women in the early menopause stage showed poorer results than women in later stages of menopause. Women in the first year of menopause also performed worse on tasks requiring working memory. The results of this study indicate that while memory loss may be evident at the onset of menopause, it may not be as significant as a woman transitions out of menopause. They also show that menopause symptoms, like trouble sleeping, depression, and anxiety, are not a predictor of memory loss.
Other research suggests that the reason women approaching menopause experience bouts of forgetfulness—which may be perceived as memory loss—is because of the dramatic shift in hormones and how women cope with the bodily changes they’re experiencing. Many older women are already trying to balance their work and home life. Menopause is characterized by reduced hormone production in the ovaries, and this fluctuation can often lead to shifts in mood. For many women, menopause also comes with emotional distress about aging, infertility, and body image. All of these symptoms can add more stress and anxiety to an already busy life. Because these women’s attention is being pulled in so many different directions, it may be more difficult for them to process new information, which can come across as memory loss.
Thanks to research like this, women who are approaching menopause can now rest assured that their reported feelings of memory loss and forgetfulness are completely normal. Perceived memory loss can be caused by a variety of different factors related to menopause, but in most cases, the effects are temporary, and not indicative of future Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses.
In many cases, lifestyle changes can be incorporated as precautionary steps for preventing age-related memory loss. For women experiencing menopause, doing simple things like writing stuff down in a small journal or agenda, or saying things out loud can help with recalling information at a time when it may be more difficult to remember.
“Memory loss and menopause,” News Medical web site; https://www.news-medical.net/news/2006/02/05/15728.aspx, last accessed May 21, 2013.