Researchers have found that fluctuating levels of hormones during menopause can lead to memory loss and other cognitive changes, especially in the first year after a woman’s last menstrual cycle.
Fortunately, the effects of menopause on cognition are unlikely to be permanent.
The study was published in the journal Menopause and followed 117 women who completed several tests that examined their ability to learn and retain new information, as well as their ability to sustain their attention for long periods of time.
The researchers found that women who were in the early stages of post-menopause performed worse when it came to verbal memory and learning and fine motor skills. Women who were in other stages of menopause performed better on these tests.
According to the Huffington Post, lead author Dr. Miriam Weber said, “Women going through menopausal transition have long complained of cognitive difficulties such as keeping track of information and struggling with mental tasks that would have otherwise been routine.”
Weber, a neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center, also said, “This study suggests that these problems not only exist but become most evident in women in the first year following their final menstrual period.”
As we’ve previously reported, women who begin hormone therapy within the first five years of menopause are 30 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who take hormone replacements later. However, researchers said that hormone replacement will not protect women from diseases of aging. So while the effects of menopause may not cause permanent changes to women’s cognition once they stop having menstrual cycles, women should not resort to hormone therapy hoping to stave off memory loss associated with growing older.