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Is “Menopause Memory” temporary or permanent?

Study finds that Menopausal women ‘suffer from temporary loss of memory’.

Many of us have thought this for quite sometime.  Well, now a study seems to prove it — Women going through menopause suffer from a loss of memory and learning ability.  The good news is that it’s only for a short period of time as reported by Murray Wardrop in the Telegraph*.

The largest study of its kind discovered that women entering the menopause scored worse in memory tests than those who had already or had not yet gone through it.

Experts concluded that the phenomenon is caused by lower levels of female hormones during the period immediately before the menopause begins – known as perimenopausal.  But American researchers said their findings should provide relief for many women because they also concluded that the impairment is only temporary.

Dr Gail Greendale, of the University of California, who led the study of almost 2,500 women, said: “Sixty per cent of women state that they have memory problems during the menopause transition.  “The good news is that the effect of perimenopause on learning seems to be temporary.  “Our study found that the amount of learning improved back to premenopausal levels during the postmenopausal stage.”

Menopause occurs when a woman’s stock of eggs, which number one or two million at birth, falls to the point where reproduction is no longer possible.  Its timing varies considerably among white women, ranging between 40 and 60 years of age, but the average age is around 50.

Over a period of four years, researchers studied 2,362 women aged from 42 to 52, all of who had at least one menstrual period in the three months before the study started.  The women were given three tests: verbal memory, working memory and a test that measured the speed at which they processed information.  The study found that repeated testing improved the ability of women to process information during the various stages of the menopause.

But the improvements during the perimenopausal stage – defined by menstrual irregularity – were around 70 per cent worse than those at any other stage of the transition.  Women’s scores improved again after the menopause.

Dr Greendale said that the findings suggest that during the early and late perimenopause women do not learn as well as they do during other stages of the menopause.

The study also found that taking oestrogen or progesterone hormones before menopause helped verbal memory and processing speed.  But taking these hormones after the menopause had a negative effect.

Dr. Greendale added: “Our results suggest that the ‘critical period’ for estrogen or progesterone’s benefits on the brain may be prior to menopause, but the findings should be interpreted with caution.”

The research is published in the latest issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

As well as causing infertility, menopause is associated with an increased risk of the brittle bone disease osteoporosis and heart disease.

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Published: 7:31AM BST 26 May 2009

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