A recently published study has found that entering menopause at a later age may be associated with a small benefit to memory later in life.
The study involved 1,315 women with menopause from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development in Great Britain, testing their verbal memory skills and cognitive processing speed at ages 43, 53, between 60 and 64, and at age 69.
Researchers collected information on age at menopause, either natural or due to removal of the ovaries, and whether they took hormone replacement therapy.
Other factors were considered that could affect memory skills, including childhood cognitive ability, amount of education, smoking and type of occupation.
Diana Kuh, PhD, of University College London, UK, said: “This study suggests that lifelong hormonal processes, not just short-term fluctuations during menopause, may be associated with memory skills.”
The study results
Results for the verbal memory, which had the participants recall a 15-item list three times with a maximum score of 45, found that at age 43, participants recalled an average of 25.8 words. By age 69, they recalled an average of 23.3 words.
It was found that among 846 women experiencing natural menopause, those who had it at a later stage had higher verbal memory scores; they remembered 0.17 additional words per year.
For the 313 women who experienced menopause due to surgery, the relationship between age at the time of surgery and memory scores was no longer present after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect memory.
For the test of how fast the women could process information, a relationship wasn’t found between the age at menopause and test scores.
Can this reduce the risk of dementia?
Kuh added: “The difference in verbal memory scores for a ten-year difference in the start of menopause was small—recalling only one additional word, but it’s possible that this benefit could translate to a reduced risk of dementia years later.
“More research and follow-up are needed to determine whether that is the case.”
Source: American Academy of Neurology