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Memory loss from reduced estrogen … Finally, someone’s bringing it up!

I’ve wondered for a long time why the media rarely, if ever, talks about the memory loss that frequently accompanies menopause. (Actually, gynecologists rarely seem to warn us either)

“I think I might be getting Alzheimer’s.”

I can’t tell you how many women have said that to me. And not one knew to put memory on her list of menopause concerns — that list that included heart attack, cancer, bone loss, dry skin, thinning hair, stroke, ad infinitum. (Memory loss wasn’t even mentioned in a menopause cover story in Newsweek last year.) So, I’d just about decided that there was a conspiracy of silence. Maybe women wanted to keep this under the radar in case someone wanted to use faulty memory against them?

That’s why I yelped “FINALLY” when I saw a Wall Street Journal article this week by Melinda Beck: “Doctors Use Estrogen to Treat Memory Loss in Older Women.” Here’s an overview of what Beck has to say, but I suggest you go to the article link we’ve provided and read the whole thing yourself …

“Doctors who specialize in menopause say such cognitive problems [memory loss] are just as common as hot flashes and often more worrisome.” …”Many studies have confirmed that declining estrogen affects visual and verbal memory, language and other cognitive skills.”

However, studies have found contradictory results — depending upon age and type of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — and like so many studies related to menopause, there are still many unanswered questions. “Indeed, not all women suffer memory loss or fuzzy thinking at menopause, just like post-partum depression and pre-menstrual syndrome don’t affect all women.”

“For women who are sensitive, HRT can be a lifeline.” A tax attorney mentioned that she: “… couldn’t think. I couldn’t remember names of clients. I couldn’t focus on documents. I resigned from every board and started to make arrangements to retire on disability.” When she went back to an estradiol patch, she said: “I’m practicing full throttle again. I got my life back.”

While HRT may or may not be right for you, we do need to be aware of the possibility of “menopause memory,” and, it shouldn’t be such a well-kept secret. We all need to keep talking about it.

TIP: If you’re interested in treating menopause with or without HRT, visit www.menopausetheblog.com, written by Wendy Lawson in San Francisco. She was frustrated about the difficulty she found in getting the information she wanted so made it easy for you to get a lot of what you may be after.

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Wendy Lawson says: March 21st, 2008 at 4:45 pm

I too was glad to see Melinda Beck’s column linking menopause and memory loss. My friends and I constantly make light of our aging brains and forgetfulness, while seriously wondering if we’re in the early stages of Alzheimers. Because it was taboo to talk about “the change of life” in our mothers’ (and their mothers’) generation we haven’t benefitted from the “oral tradition” of learning about menopausal health issues like memory loss from our “elders” and our physicians don’t seem to have (or take) the time to fully explain to us what to expect. So, like our mothers and grandmothers, we learn as we go and deal with it. Hopefully, we’ll share our new found wisdom with our daughters .

Susan Schwartz says: March 23rd, 2008 at 12:37 pm

just remember that Omega 3 Fatty Acids can be really helpful too.

Diana Surfas says: March 24th, 2008 at 2:09 pm

YES….I too have suspected the connection between my own memory issues and being taken off of HRT a few years ago. Now with the Wall Street Journal article in hand I am dialing to make an appointment with my doctor.
Would this fall into the same category as using gynecological estrogen as a face cream? I understand that works too but haven’t tried it.
Anyone out there have a personal testimony on either?
Thank you snoety!

moira Forjaz says: March 25th, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Hi, Harriett,
Snoety is getting more and more interesting, thanks so much for keeping me informed here in Maputo Mozambique.

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