dreamstime.comFrom Ageology’s hometown of Chicago comes a new study on menopause’s impact on memory and cognitive performance (thinking ability). Northwestern University researchers have found that women in the thick of the menopausal transition do, in fact, experience memory loss, as well as lack of ability to perform well on tests of cognition.

It turns out that these women are very good at estimating the impact of these memory complaints. In other words, they know they aren’t as sharp as they once were and they can self-evaluate the size of the problem, even without taking the tests they received for this study.

Researchers from the departments of psychology, psychiatry and obstetrics/gynecology worked together to evaluate 68 middle-aged women. The subjects’ average age was 53, and all were experiencing at least 35 hot flashes per week (I can’t even imagine!). Each woman completed a series of questionnaires that measured memory function, cognition, menopause symptoms and mood. Simple study. Elegant design. Fascinating results.

After conducting the tests and analyzing the results, the researchers found that women who were experiencing more vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats (and, most likely, losing more sleep and enduring greater stress) scored worse on cognitive and memory tests. Negative emotions (aka “negative affect”) were measured through the mood questionnaire. Not surprisingly, greater negative affect was also linked to greater loss of memory and thinking ability.

Other studies have found that nighttime hot flashes are the best predictor of memory performance in menopausal women. The more hot flashes a woman has at night, disrupting her sleep, the more likely her daytime cognitive function will suffer. It’s not breaking news that the combination of loss of sleep and stress hormones, which tend to surge with sleeplessness and the strain of dealing with constant hot flashes, would have this frustrating effect.

For women who need to stay sharp and get plenty of sleep throughout the menopausal transition, Ageology physicians can help through careful hormone-level testing and balancing, also called bioidentical hormone therapy (BHT). Just the right amount of estrogens and progesterone will relieve hot flashes quickly and completely, as well as help to balance out mood and daytime energy levels.

Regardless of the treatment option that you and your Ageology physician decide to take, rest assured that the memory loss that tends to come around menopause is only temporary. Women who eat well, stay active, and keep their minds engaged will bounce back when their sleep patterns, moods and stress levels return to normal.

Contact an integrative metabolic medicine professional to find out more if you’re a menopausal woman who’s tired of being tired (and stressed, and moody, and absent-minded)!

Drogos LL, et al. Objective cognitive performance is related to subjective memory complaints in midlife women with moderate to severe vasomotor symptoms. Menopause 2013 May 13. Photo credit: dreamstime.com