Menopause and Memory - A Link?
By: Donovan Baldwin
While you may experience the misery of hot flashes and mood swings as
you enter menopause, one thing which you can't honestly blame on the "change" is memory loss.
Despite anecdotal accounts from affected individuals, recent studies
absolve menopause of guilt in impairing your ability to recall things...i.e. your memory,
In one of these studies, Taiwanese researchers compared the memory capability of hundreds of
women before they had any menopausal symptoms, to their memory as they entered menopause.
Women who were going through the menopausal process scored as well or
nearly as well on five different cognitive function tests. Results of
the study were presented at an American Neurological
Association meeting in Toronto.
"When women go into perimenopause, they don't need to worry about
cognitive decline," stated Dr. Jong-Ling Fuh, an attending physician at
Taipei Veterans General Hospital and an associate professor of
Yang-Ming University School of Medicine.
The researchers said that the myth of memory loss during menopause is a
perception some women have. These women observed that as they
went through menopause, their memory didn't seem to be as sharp as it
had been before. Other studies suggesting that hormone replacement
therapy might protect against dementia helped strengthen that belief.
However, a large study later found that in older women, hormone
replacement therapy not only didn't actually help protect women from
dementia, but could even increase the risk.
To try to answer the question of whether menopause did have any effect
on memory, Dr. Fuh and her colleagues studied nearly 700 premenopausal
women living on a group of rural islands between Taiwan and China. The
Taiwanese government restricted access to these islands until the
1990s, so the authors report that the study's population was nearly
homogeneous, which would help rule out many other potentially causative
factors of memory loss.
The women were between the ages of 40 and 54. None of them had had a
hysterectomy, and none took hormone replacement therapy during the
All took five cognitive tests designed to assess their memory and
cognitive skills at the start of the study, and then again 18 months
During the study period, 23 percent of the women began to have symptoms
The researchers then compared the memory of the women who had entered
menopause to those who had not, and found very little difference. In
four of the five tests, there were no statistically significant
differences in the two groups of women.
Only on one test was the difference statistically significant, and that
difference, said Fuh, was very slight. This test was designed to assess
verbal memory and involved showing the women 70 nonsensical figures.
Some of the figures were repeated during the test, while most were not.
The women were asked whether they had seen the figure earlier.
"For women, menopause does not mean you'll develop memory loss," said
Dr. Raina Ernstoff, an attending neurologist at William Beaumont
Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. As you're going through perimenopause and
experiencing symptoms like hot flashes, she said, you may feel lousy
and have trouble sleeping, which might temporarily affect your
"I don't think declining estrogen levels are what causes memory loss,"
said Dr. Steven Goldstein, an obstetrician/gynecologist at New York
University Medical Center in New York City. "It's not like your memory
is bopping along, doing fine and then takes this big dive during
menopause, like bone density can."
Both Ernstoff and Goldstein said they weren't aware of many women who
believed that menopause might cause significant memory loss. They also
both felt that results from this group of women who were so homogeneous
might not apply to different groups of women, such as those living in
more industrialized society. And they both said that other factors that
weren't studied could play a role in memory loss, such as hypertension,
which can contribute to vascular dementia.
Ernstoff also pointed out that education backgrounds of the subjects of such studies can play a large role in memory loss. Jong-Ling Fuh, M.D. has stated that the researchers did attempt to control the data to allow for educational differences.
Jong-Ling Fuh, M.D., attending physician, Taipei Veterans General
Hospital, and associate professor, Yang-Ming University School of
Medicine, Taipei, Taiwan; Steven Goldstein, M.D.,
obstetrician/gynecologist, New York University Medical Center, and
professor, obstetrics/gynecology, New York University School of
Medicine, New York City; Raina Ernstoff, M.D., attending neurologist,
William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich., and member, Alzheimer's
Board of Detroit; Oct. 4, 2004, presentation, American Neurological
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Donovan Baldwin is a freelance SEO copywriter residing in Stone
Mountain, GA, and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a past member of
Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of
service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory
positions. However, his main pleasures have long been
writing, nature, health, and fitness. In the last few years, he has
been able to combine these pleasures by writing poetry and articles on
subjects such as health, fitness, weight lifting, yoga, weight loss,
the environment, global warming, happiness, self improvement, and
life. His senior health and fitness blog can be
found at http://fitness-after-40.ws.
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