Early menopause linked to memory problems

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It has been discovered that females who go through menopause before they reach the age of 40 are at higher risk of suffering from problems with their memory.

In the UK, the average menopausal age is 51. The study did a comparison of the results of women who had gone through an early menopause to those who had gone through it later in life.

It involved testing of 5000 females at the time when they first enrolled to enter the study, and again two, four and seven years later.

The results indicated that women who had suffered premature menopause were 40% more likely to obtain low scores on visual memory and verbal fluency tests, than others who had experienced menopause at 50 or older. It was also found that they were more likely to experience a decline in their overall thinking ability and reaction times, seven years after menopause.

The tests required that the women recognise a previously shown line drawing, draft a list of animals or colours within a period of half a minute, connect numbered circles and complete the mini-mental state exam that tests general thinking abilities.

The researchers stated that the results should be considered when women under the age of 40 are willing to undergo removal of their ovaries to induce menopause.

It was found that hormone replacement therapy when menopause was being experienced did not have a positive effect on the changes that occurred to the memory and thinking patterns of the women. The tests indicated that HRT may have been helpful for visual memory, but it increased the risk of low verbal fluency.

Dr Joanne Ryan, the lead author of the research and a postdoctoral research fellow in Neuropsychiatry at Hospital La Colombiere in France, stated that both premature ovarian failure and premature surgical menopause were linked to negative long-term effects on cognitive function which is not fully offset by hormonal treatments.

The Deputy Editor-in-Chief of BJOG, Pierre Martin Hirsch, stated that the aging population makes it vital to have an understanding of the long term effects of premature menopause on cognitive function later in life, as well as whether there is any benefit to be derived from making use of menopause hormone treatment. He said the study has added to existing evidence that premature menopause affects later life cognitive function and healthcare professionals should be aware of this problem.

Image Credit: Derecke Sanches

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