In the battle of the sexes, women have long claimed that they can remember things better and longer than men can. A new study proves that middle-aged women outperform age-matched men on all memory measures, including memory loss, although memory does decline as women enter post-menopause. The study is being published online in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Memory loss, unfortunately, is a well-documented consequence of the aging process. Epidemiological estimates suggest that approximately 75 percent of older adults report memory-related problems. Women report increased forgetfulness and “brain fog” during the menopause transition. In addition, women are disproportionately at risk for memory impairment and dementia compared with men. Despite these conditions working against them, middle-aged women still outscore their similarly aged male counterparts on all memory measures, according to the study. There are many issues that impact memory loss including lifestyle, sleep and diet.
The cross-sectional study of 212 men and women aged 45 to 55 years assessed episodic memory, executive function, semantic processing, and estimated verbal intelligence through cognitive testing. Associative memory and episodic verbal memory were assessed using a Face-Name Associative Memory Exam and Selective Reminding Test.
In addition to comparing sex differences, the study also found that premenopausal and perimenopausal women outperformed postmenopausal women in a number of key memory areas. Declines in estradiol levels in postmenopausal women were specifically associated with lower rates of initial learning and retrieval of previously recalled information, while memory storage and consolidation were maintained.
“Brain fog and complaints of memory issues should be taken seriously,” says Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, NAMS executive director. “This study and others have shown that these complaints are associated with memory deficits.”
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Can memory loss be reversed?
Older adults who have trouble recalling past events often chalk it up to “senior moments,” but the problem is a breakdown in their episodic memory. While people can’t reverse the effect of aging on this type of memory loss, certain strategies can help a person learn and retain new information, better access past details, and use that knowledge in the future.