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Menopause and Memory Loss: New Research Explains Why Menopausal Women Often Feel Forgetful

Along with the hot flashes, sleepless nights and mood swings, many women also report another symptom that comes along with menopause: forgetfulness.

"We see a lot of women who are afraid they are losing their minds," said Miriam Weber, Ph.D., a senior instructor of neurology from the University of Rochester Medical Center, who conducted a study on the topic with colleague Mark Mapstone, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology. "A lot of women complain that their thinking or their memory isn't what it used to be. Their big fear is that it's early Alzheimer's disease."

Menopausal women aren't forgetful, they've just got too much going on to really commit things to their memory in the first place.

The researchers found no link between "forgetful" women going through menopause and Alzheimer's, but they did find something else: the forgetfulness doesn't stem from an impaired memory, it stems from stressed women with busy lives who have a harder time learning, or "encoding," new information.

Not a Memory Problem After All

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"This is not what most people think of traditionally when they think of memory loss," said Mapstone. "It feels like a memory problem, but the cause is different. It feels like you can't remember, but that's because you never really learned the information in the first place."

The researchers tested several cognitive skills of 24 women who complained of memory problems. They found, as previous studies have, no evidence that the women, who were approaching menopause, had any more memory problems than the rest of the population.

What they did find, however, was that the women had a harder time learning new information, which could be mistakenly perceived as a memory problem. None of the women actually had an impaired ability to learn new information, the researchers pointed out.

Hectic Lives, Stress and Hormones May All Play a Part

The team compared the problem to a doctor's visit in which a patient is told something serious is wrong, then given a lot of detailed information. Chances are that when the patient gets home he or she won't remember a lot of it, simply because they were so worried and distracted at the time of the conversation. The information wasn't forgotten, it was never really heard in the first place.

Such is the case with many middle-aged women who juggle careers, kids, home responsibilities and aging parents on a daily basis.

"When people spread their attention thin, it's difficult to encode new information. When they're worried or anxious about being late for work, or the problems of an aging parent -- that sort of stress can rob your attentional resources and impact your ability to encode information properly," said Mapstone.

Ironically, not worrying about the forgetfulness could actually help to alleviate the problem, Weber said.

"What characterizes these women is that they're being pulled in a lot of different directions ... Then they're going through this dramatic hormonal change ... There really is something going on. And perhaps knowing that their perceived problems with memory do not suggest early dementia might alleviate their concerns and actually improve their functioning -- it's one less thing to worry about," he said.

Easing Menopausal Symptoms Naturally

If you're a woman in your mid-40s or early 50s and menopause-related symptoms have you feeling tired, sweaty, achy, bloated and moody, there are some simple tricks that can help.

1. Ease Stress

As the study above found, simply putting too much on your plate can lead to increased feelings of "forgetfulness" and will also certainly make you more tired and moody. Make stress-relief a priority in your life by:

  • Setting aside time to do something you like everyday.

  • Learning to say "no" if you feel overwhelmed.

  • Incorporating relaxation, such as taking a warm bath or doing yoga, into your daily routine.

  • Surrounding yourself with positive-minded friends and family.

2. Try a NATURAL progesterone cream

Women going through menopause experienced fewer migraines, mood swings and bouts of insomnia when they exercised one hour a day, four days a week.

Producing the proper levels of progesterone in your body is key to keeping you hormonally balanced, and therefore more energized. But only truly natural versions (not the synthetic Diosgenin) are recommended. Renaissance Natural Progesterone Cream is one of the ONLY progesterone creams on the market containing 100 percent pure micronized USP progesterone powder in a topical cream. Only USP progesterone powder is bio-identical to the naturally occurring progesterone in your body.

3. Exercise

"Exercise compensates nicely for declining levels of estrogen," said Wolfgang Kemmler, PhD, who led a study on the topic. The German study of 78 early postmenopausal women found that women who exercised for one hour (with both aerobic and strength training) four days a week experienced fewer:

  • Migraines

  • Mood swings

  • Bouts of insomnia

... than women who did not exercise. They also had the added benefits of:

  • Maintaining bone mass

  • Losing 2 percent body fat and one inch from their waists

  • Reducing cholesterol by 5 percent

On the other hand, women who did not exercise lost 8 percent of their bone mass and had increases in body fat, waist measurements and cholesterol.

Recommended Reading

The Real Facts on Natural Progesterone: What Women Need to Know

Want to Improve Your Memory? Go to Bed!


Science Daily: Memory Problems at Menopause: Nothing to Forget About

Prevention: Exercise Eases Menopause

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