If you’re a bit more forgetful or having more difficulty processing complex concepts than in the past, the problem may be your menopause stage. A new study claims that menopause stage is a key determinant of cognition and, contrary to previous studies, shows that certain cognitive declines may continue into the postmenopause period. Study results were published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
It’s commonly assumed that people’s memories decline with age, as does their ability to learn new things and grasp challenging concepts. But multiple large-scale studies have suggested that menopause is a sex-specific risk factor for cognitive dysfunction independent of aging and menopause symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and hot flashes.
Many of these previous studies, however, did not characterize the duration of cognitive changes taking place between pre-menopause and perimenopause but suggested that difficulties in memory and processing may resolve in the postmenopause period. A new study involving more than 440 primarily low-income women of color, including women with HIV, concluded that menopause stage is a key determinant of cognition but that clinically significant cognitive declines/cognitive impairment persist into postmenopause, affecting primarily learning and memory. Smaller declines in attention were additionally found to continue into the post-menopause period.
Researchers believe that the difference in results relative to the duration of cognitive decline could be explained by the fact that this newer study included more low-income women with multiple risk factors for cognitive dysfunction, including the presence of HIV. Previous studies have confirmed that cognitive function is compromised by an array of risk factors, including HIV, poverty, low education, substance abuse, high levels of stress, limited access to quality healthcare, mental health problems, and medical comorbidities. There are also a number of ways you can fight back.
“Additional research is needed to confirm these findings and to identify the factors responsible for individual differences in cognitive changes,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director who was involved in the study.