By Serena Gordon
While you may experience the misery of hot flashes and mood swings as you enter menopause, one thing you can't blame on the "change" is memory loss.
In the latest study that exonerates menopause as a cause of impairing the ability to recall, Taiwanese researchers compared the memory of hundreds of women before they had any menopausal symptoms to their memory as they entered menopause.
They found the women who were going through the menopausal process scored as well or nearly as well on five different cognitive function tests. Results of the study were at the recent American Neurological Association meeting in Toronto.
"When women go into perimenopause, they don't need to worry about cognitive decline," said Dr. Jong-Ling Fuh, an attending physician at Taipei Veterans General Hospital and an associate professor of Yang-Ming University School of Medicine.
The researchers said the myth of memory loss during menopause is a perception some women have because as they went through menopause, they felt their memory wasn't as sharp as it had been before. Studies suggesting that hormone replacement therapy might protect against dementia strengthened that belief. However, a large study later found that in older women, hormone replacement therapy not only didn't help protect women from dementia, but could increase the risk.
To try to answer the question of whether menopause did have any effect on memory, Fuh and her colleagues studied nearly 700 premenopausal women living on a group of rural islands between Taiwan and China. The Taiwanese government restricted access to these islands until the 1990s, so the authors report that the study's population was nearly homogeneous, which would help rule out other factors of memory loss.
The women were between the ages of 40 and 54. None of them had had a hysterectomy, and none took hormone replacement therapy during the study.
All took five cognitive tests designed to assess their memory and cognitive skills at the start of the study, and then again 18 months later.
During the study period, 23 percent of the women began to have symptoms of menopause.
The researchers then compared the memory of the women who had entered menopause to those who had not, and found very little difference. In four of the five tests, there were no significant differences in the two groups of women.
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