Certain menopausal symptoms linked to memory problems

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Not everyone who undergoes menopause has the same experience. Some experience recurring hot flashes, while others have heightened emotional responses. A new study suggests women with menopausal symptoms such as depression and sexual dysfunction are more likely to experience memory problems. Other cognitive issues centered on language and attention skills.

“This study highlights the effect of menopause symptoms on cognitive functioning and demonstrates a link between severe depressive and sexual symptoms, specifically, with cognitive performance. Mood disturbances are common in the menopause transition and can affect memory and sexual functioning. These findings underscore the importance of evaluating women for menopause symptoms and providing appropriate treatment, when indicated, including treatment of depression and sexual dysfunction,” says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, MD, MBA, a clinician for the Women’s Health Clinic at Mayo Clinic and medical director for The North American Menopause Society in a media release.

The study followed the cognitive performance of 404 women between the ages of 40 and 65 who were not undergoing hormone therapy. All women reported menopausal symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The researchers studied 21 different menopausal symptoms and how they affected cognitive performance using the Mini-Mental State Examination. The team divided cognitive performance into five domains: orientation, registration, attention, recall, and language and visuospatial skills.

Severe menopause leads to brain impairment

The findings reveal that women with severe menopausal symptoms had greater cognitive impairments in registration, attention, recall, and language/visuospatial skills than those with mild symptoms.

While other studies have observed a link between vasomotor symptoms and cognitive performance, this study did not. However, the team did find that women who experienced depression and sexual dysfunction were more susceptible than others to developing impairments in cognitive performance.

Almost half of women in early menopause experienced anxiety and depression. About 60 percent of women in late menopause reported more symptoms of depression, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, and sleep problems.

The study is published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society.

About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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