Forget About It

As women approach their fifth decades, along with menopause, they often begin to have memory problems. If you've wondered if you might be losing your mind, you're probably asking the questions: is this a hormonal thing—some kind of menopausal symptom, or is it just plain old aging?

True Phenomenon?

In truth, it's not even clear that the memory loss is a true phenomenon. One 2003 study suggested that menopausal women show no clear signs of mental decline, while memory tests seemed to improve during the time women took part in the study. The results of the study were published in the medical journal Neurology, back in September of 2003.

The study was performed by researchers at Chicago's Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center and involved 803 women between the ages of 42-52. At the onset of the study, most had not yet stopped menstruating. None of them were being treated with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Once yearly, over the course of 6 years, the participants were administered memory tests involving the repetition of long strings of numbers which had to be recited in reverse. The women were also asked to identify number and symbol pairs as fast as possible. It was expected that scores would drop as the women aged, but instead, it was found that all of the scores rose over this period of time. In fact, on one of the memory tests, the scores of the women rose on average by 3%.

Cognitive Function

Up until now, researchers have thought that decreased levels of estrogen affect cognitive function and might explain the forgetfulness claimed by so many menopausal women. Experts decided that forgetfulness was yet another symptom of menopause. Now that the results of the 2003 study have been made known, experts are speculating that any memory problems encountered by menopausal women may have more to do with stress than with hormonal changes. It's easy to see why menopausal women are stressed out. They have to deal with adolescent children, elderly parents, and the twin responsibilities of work and home.

On the other hand, researchers admit that their tests may not have shown anything about the types of memory that can be affected by hormones. Certain studies have shown that women forget words, while other studies have not borne out these results.

If you're worried about your memory, the best thing to do is to try to reduce the stress in your life with relaxation techniques. Some foods are good for memory: blueberries, flax seeds, sardines, and salmon are especially good. The newest studies indicate that the spice used to perk up of the color of ballpark mustard, turmeric, may reduce your risk for Alzheimer's disease. Don't binge on alcohol and make sure you're taking a good multi-mineral/multivitamin supplement. Keep your mind active by doing puzzles, discussing current events and reading. Make sure to engage in regular aerobic exercise.

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