Saturday, October 11, 2003

#23 Women! Are we losing our memories or our minds?

During Spanish class I mentioned that not only was I having difficulty memorizing phrases in Spanish, but that I could no longer memorize anything in English. After class another student told me she was certainly glad to know she wasn’t the only one having that problem. Since menopause, she said, she had been losing her memory.

I mentioned to her that I read a recent study (couldn’t remember where or when) that concluded menopause and memory loss were not related. “Pfffft.” she said. “Men our age aren’t having this problem. Every woman I’ve talked with complains about memory loss.”

I found the study which was published in the September 2003 journal, Neurology. The full text article by Meyer et al. requires a login, however, there is a full text patient page on the web Menopause and brain function

The author of the patient page raises some interesting questions in his conclusion: “This study looked at a wide range of women over six years and did not find worse brain abilities in women during or after menopause. This finding does not fit with what women have reported about memory loss after menopause. It also does not fit with what we know about estrogen’s role in the brain.”

“What does this study mean when we consider these other things we know about menopause? It may be that the brain does not need the hormones as much as we think. Maybe the tests used in study did not measure the brain function that depends on the lost hormones. It may be that the women got better scores on the tests because they practiced taking them. Perhaps their brains were not working as well, but they learned how to take the tests better. More research is needed to answer these and other questions about the effects of menopause on the brain.”

My own opinion is that as we age we don’t learn as quickly or effortlessly, and some of us are mistaking the fact that we need more repetitions and more time to learn and to retain new information than we used to for memory problems. The younger our co-workers are, the more we notice it. Take a look at these tips on hanging on to the brain function you still have.

Last night I watched the Smothers Brothers on the Life with Bonnie show murdering the Spanish language, and I understood almost every word. I was so thrilled.

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