MONDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Women going through menopause sometimes feel they are off their mental game, forgetting phone numbers and passwords, or struggling to find a particular word. It can be frustrating, disconcerting and worrisome, but a small new study helps to explain the struggle.
Researchers found that women in the first year after menopause perform slightly worse on certain mental tests than do those who are approaching their post-reproductive years.
"This study shows, as have others, that there are cognitive [mental] declines that are real, statistically significant and clinically significant," said study author Miriam Weber, an assistant professor in the department of neurology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y. "These are subtle declines in performance, so women aren't becoming globally impaired and unable to function. But you notice it on a daily basis."
The study is published in the current issue of the journal Menopause.
According to the researchers, the process of learning, retaining and applying new information is associated with regions of the brain that are rich in estrogen receptors. The natural fluctuation of the hormone estrogen during menopause seems to be linked to problems associated with thinking and memory, Weber said.
"We found the problem is not related to absolute hormone levels," Weber explained. "Estrogen declines in the transition, but before it falls, there are dramatic fluctuations."
Weber explained that it is the variation in estrogen level that most likely plays a critical role in creating the memory problems many women experience.
As the body readjusts to the changes in hormonal levels sometime after a woman's period stops, the researchers suspect mental challenges diminish.
While Weber said it is important that women understand that memory issues associated
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