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Study Suggests Mental 'Fog' of Menopause Is Real
Date:3/20/2012

d 60 years of age.

Overall, 41 percent reported having forgetfulness that was serious. The women who felt their mental shortcomings were more severe were more likely to score poorly on tests of working memory and attention.

In day-to-day life, women with working memory problems would probably have to reread a story several times to make sense of the details, Maki explained. And if there were a noise in the background like a siren, women with poor attention would struggle to stay focused on the story.

On the other hand, memory complaints were not associated with problems with a longer-term type of memory, called verbal memory, which was put to the test by asking women to recall lists of words. Nevertheless, some women likely do experience verbal memory deficits at later stages of menopause or as their menopausal symptoms become more severe, Maki said.

Although the women who reported more severe memory deficits were also more likely to experience problems such as depression and hot flashes, the study found that these ailments could not entirely explain poor working memory and attention.

This suggests that menopause fog is due not just to poor mood and distractions like hot flashes and poor sleep, but to the direct effect of changing levels of hormones like estrogen. Estrogen is thought to influence parts of the brain involved in memory.

While the researchers did not find an association between level of estrogen in the blood and memory ability, it is probably changes in estrogen levels in the brain that are important, and these are next to impossible to measure, Maki said.

In addition to changes related to menopause, a number of other stressors in life, from work to taking care of children and parents, that pile up around the same time as menopause can hinder memory and ability to concentrate, said Nancy Woods, a professor at the University of Washington School of Nursing.

While the study supports that women experience me
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