Memory loss or cognitive decline is most common in women who are perimenopausal, which usually spans five or six years before they experience their last menstrual period. This condition is often described as a foggy or hazy feeling and an inability to concentrate or learn new information. Studies show menopause and memory loss at this early phase might be minimized with hormone replacement therapy.
Menopause and memory loss can be troubling to women who are at the peak of their careers and need sharp minds to compete in the business world. The use of hormones during perimenopause may improve brain function in these younger women. Research shows, however, that concentration and the ability to retain new information rebounds after perimenopause, with or without hormone supplements.
The research also found that taking hormones beyond perimenopause might hasten the decline of memory as the brain ages. Researchers studied the effects of menopause and memory loss at four stages of the process. They found hormone replacement therapy may be effective on memory during the early stages but detrimental if used five years or more after a woman enters menopause.
Another study linked menopause and memory loss with anxiety and depression. All the women tested reported they had trouble remembering, but a battery of tests did not bear out those perceptions, except in women who suffered depression or anxiety. Menopause and memory loss in depressed women might be caused by the disorder, which prevents the brain from encoding new information. They may not be forgetting information, but rather never really learning it.
The researchers also noted that women of this age might be coping with aging parents and other stressors that contribute to anxiety. They may also be busy with their careers and distracted when new information is presented. Memory problems are common complaints from people who feel stressed or anxious.
In some cases, menopause and memory loss might be connected to common symptoms during this period in a woman’s life. If she suffers from hot flashes and night sweats that disrupt sleep, it could interfere with concentration during the day. Fatigue is another typical complaint during menopause that might lead to cognitive problems.
Some studies show that diet and exercise can help ease the symptoms of menopause, including memory loss. Increasing foods in the diet that contain omega-3 fatty acids, for example, may help improve memory as well as improve heart function. Exercise can help combat fatigue by increasing energy levels and improving sleep patterns. Keeping the mind active and sharp, by doing such things as crossword puzzles or studying a foreign language, can help curb memory loss during menopause as well.