Researchers discovered subtle changes in the mental processes of women in the year after their final menstrual period, a phase called early post-menopause.
Women in the early post-menopause phase scored worse on verbal tests than those in an earlier stage of menopause, reported Miriam T. Weber, Ph.D., of the University of Rochester in New York, and colleagues in the online journal Menopause. The group also fared worse on measures of fine motor skills and attention/working memory.
The findings contradicted suggestions that the cognitive and memory changes many women experience with menopause occur as a result of associated symptoms, such as sleep disturbances and depression, as well as from fluctuating estrogen levels.
The study included 117 women with an average age of 48.7 years. Additional tests included dexterity, visuospatial skills and overall memory. Participants also rated their symptoms of depression, anxiety and overall health. Researchers found no “associations between cognitive scores and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disruptions, or anxiety.”
Another, larger study is being conducted to better understand “the patterns of change and potential mechanisms.”
Some readers may construe this news to be a scientific attack on women. Little could be further from the truth. If—as some women report—females do experience themselves changing as they age, they should know that there is a physiological basis for the feeling, rather than worrying that something is wrong with them. Knowledge of the change may also enable scientists to develop ways to counteract it.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
Nancy Walsh at MedPage Today:
“The primary finding from our study was that women in early postmenopause performed worse than those in the late reproductive and late menopausal transition stages on verbal learning, verbal memory, and motor tasks, and worse than those in late menopausal transition on measures of attention/working memory,” the researchers stated.
They also pointed out that the effects were independent of other factors such as mood, symptoms, or hormone levels, which countered their expectations.
“Taken together, these findings suggest that women’s concerns about their memory function during the menopausal transition are warranted, and that they might experience particular vulnerabilities in the year after the [final menstrual period],” they concluded.
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