Menopause may play significant role in cognitive decline for women

PEPPER PIKE, Ohio — It’s no secret that aging can play a role in the loss of memory and cognitive abilities, however, new research suggests menopause may also be a contributing factor. According to a recent study, different stages of menopause can change cognitive function.

Researchers say that complex processes in the brain significantly declined with the progression of menopause. How the natural process for women causes cognitive decline is unrelated to other symptoms, such as hot flashes, anxiety, and depression.

The study involved 440 women, mostly women of color who were low-income. Some women had been diagnosed with HIV and exhibited other risk factors for declining cognitive function. Results indicated that the stage of menopause determines cognitive ability, with learning and memory decline persisting into the postmenopause period. 

Previous studies suggest that risk factors such as stress, low-quality healthcare, HIV, and substance abuse can lead to cognitive decline. Due to the women’s income level in this study, researchers believe these factors also had a role.

This is the first study to evaluate the effect of menopausal stages on cognitive function. Cognitive functions such as attention, memory, and learning were impaired significantly from the beginning of menopause to the end.

“This study, which included a racially diverse sample of low-income women and women with HIV, adds to the existing literature on cognitive changes across the menopause transition. Results showed a significant cognitive decline in learning and memory that persisted into postmenopause. Additional research is needed to confirm these findings and to identify the factors responsible for individual differences in cognitive changes,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS medical director, in a statement.

Study results are published in the journal Menopause.

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