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Women Remember More Than Men But Memories Fade As Menopause Sets In

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Women have been found to have generally better memory than men but their memories start to fade as estrogen levels drop once menopause sets in, new research has found.

In a study published in the journal Menopause, researchers from the North American Menopause Society confirmed what women have long claimed about having better memory, showing that middle-aged women outperformed men from the same age group across all memory measures. However, the researchers also discovered that women's memories do decline after menopause begins.

Memory Loss And Aging

Memory loss has long been established as a consequence of aging, with epidemiological estimates suggesting about 75 percent of older adults are dealing with problems related to memory.

For the study, the researchers worked with 212 men and women between the ages of 45 and 55. The subjects were assessed for estimated verbal intelligence, semantic processing, executive function and episodic memory using cognitive tests. Episodic verbal and associative memories were assessed via the Selective Reminding Test and Face-Name Associative Memory Exam.

For women transitioning into menopause, "brain fog" and forgetfulness are common issues. They are also disproportionately at risk for dementia and memory impairment compared to their male counterparts but the study showed that they still have better memory performance than men.

Once estrogen levels drop, however, postmenopausal women report trouble with initial learning and difficulty retrieving previously known information. The upside is that memory consolidation and storage are not affected.

"Brain fog and complaints of memory issues should be taken seriously. This study and others have shown that these complaints are associated with memory deficits," said JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director for NAMS.

How Menopause Affects Women's Health

According to a study released in April, women who enter natural menopause at 45 years old are likelier to develop heart problems and die younger than those who experienced menopause later in life. This means that menopause age could be used to predict future risk for cardiovascular problems, allowing for early intervention that will not only address heart disease but also prevent it where possible.

In another study, researchers found that risk factors for type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, like abnormal levels of cholesterol, high levels of blood sugar and elevated blood pressure, manifest before a woman enters menopause, not after as previously thought by health experts.

"The years transitioning to menopause may represent a ‘teachable moment,' when patients are especially receptive to learning and putting into practice healthy habits that can make a difference in their cardiovascular disease risk," said Mark DeBoer, one of the authors of the study.

Photo: Gareth Williams | Flickr

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