Women of a certain age who feel their memory is letting them down may not be imagining it as it could be a sign of menopause, say researchers.
A study has confirmed that around the time of menopause, the fluctuating hormone levels impact memory and other brain skills of women. However, the good news is that while memory loss is commonly observed among menopausal women, it is not permanent and unlikely bring about conditions such as depression.
AdvertisementDr Miriam Weber, a neuropsychologist working at the University of Rochester Medical Centre, said that millions of perimenopausal women, especially those in their late 40s and early 50s going through a transitional stage, are likely to identify with the findings of study.
The research has revealed that the problems are most prominent during the first year of menopause, around their last period. The average age for women to attain menopause is 50 years. Symptoms include night sweats, hot flashes, lack of concentration, depression and irritability.
The recent study involved 117 women who were either perimenopausal or who had already attained menopause. They were given an array of tasks to do including verbal memory, attention and information processing.
The tasks replicated daily tasks such as learning a phone number by heart, remembering the items on the grocery list and recalling them in the supermarket, and staying focused on something for a period of time.
It was revealed that women who were in the early stages of their post-menopause performed worse than those who were on the brink of menopause on measures of verbal learning, verbal memory and fine motor skills.
It was also observed that symptoms of menopause, such as sleep difficulties, anxiety or depression did not predict if a woman is predisposed to memory- related issues.
Dr Weber points out that there exists a possibility of fluctuations or changes of hormone levels being linked to memory problems. This is because those parts of the brain, which are vital for verbal memory and processing, are dependent on estrogen, which diminishes during menopause.
Women who experience these memory- related problems are usually very frustrated with what they see as inadequacies. Some of them are terrified that their symptoms could be an indication of Alzheimer's disease!
It helps these women to manage their situation better if they realized that their problem is temporary and above all, normal. Menopause cannot be prevented. But a lot depends on how well a woman can cope with its symptoms.
Listening to the body, understanding its needs and limitations, eating sensibly and learning to relax physically and mentally are some of the sure- tested methods to handling the changes brought about by menopause.
The results of this study have been published in the journal "Menopause".