Does Menopause Affect Memory?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Ask the experts

I've heard that a woman's memory is worse after menopause, is this true?

Doctor's response

Many women do believe that their memory worsens after menopause. Menopause is characterized by declining levels of estrogen, and estrogen is known to have effects on the brain and nervous system, including playing roles in the signaling system of the brain and control of blood flow within the brain. A decrease in estrogen levels, therefore, might reasonably be expected to alter the function of the brain.

However, a controlled study published in 2003 of brain function in over 800 women who were either premenopasual, going through menopause, or postmenopausal failed to show any decline in brain function associated with menopause. Newer studies have confirmed that memory, per se, appears not to be affected by menopause, but that women approaching menopause who complained about memory loss had, instead, difficulties encoding or processing new information.

The exact relationship of brain function and menopause is unclear, and further research is needed to clarify the complex interaction of changing hormone levels on brain function. One compounding factor is that many women who are approaching menopause lead very hectic, stressful lives and may experience anxiety and/or depression, both of which can affect retention and learning skills.

Medically reviewed by Robert Bargar, MD; Board Certification in Public Health & General Preventive Medicine

REFERENCE:

"Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of menopause"
UpToDate.com


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Reviewed on 8/23/2017

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