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Myth: Memory Affected by Menopause

Postmenopausal Women Do Just as Well on Memory Tests as Premenopausal Women
WebMD Health News

Oct. 5, 2004 (Toronto) -- A new study suggests that women don't lose their memory at menopause, suggesting that the popular myth about "menopause minutes" -- when a woman can no longer remember where she left the car keys -- is as factual as the flat Earth theory.

Jong-Ling Fuh, MD, lead researcher of the new study from Taiwan, tells WebMD that after menopause women perform as well on tests of memory and thinking as they did before menopause. The only difference, she says, is a slight decline on a verbal memory test. Fuh is a researcher at Taipei Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan. She presented the data at the 129th Annual Meeting of the American Neurological Association.

Samuel Gandy, MD, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the Farber Institute at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, tells WebMD that the new study "independently confirms results reported last year indicating that early menopause is not attended by immediate memory loss."

The researchers recruited 694 premenopausal women, aged 40 to 54, into their study and assessed their memory at baseline and 18 months later. After factoring out the women who had had a hysterectomy or hormone therapy during the 18 months, Fuh and colleagues found that 23% of the 495 remaining eligible women had entered menopause.

With the exception of the verbal memory test, the women who had entered menopause scored similarly on various memory tests to the women who had not yet entered menopause. The exception was a test of verbal memory, which involved the sequential presentation of 70 nonsensical figures, several of which were repeated during the test. The subjects were asked whether the figures had been seen before. On this test, the women who entered menopause had slightly lower scores.

Fuh says, however, that the follow-up period was just 18 months in this study and their conclusions are limited to early menopause. A longer follow-up is needed to completely evaluate the impact of menopause on memory, she says.

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