Memory slips may be due to menopause
March 14th, 2012
05:10 PM ET

Memory slips may be due to menopause

You're standing in the grocery store aisle staring at the rows of canned soup. The recipe called for three cups of soup, but you can't for the life of you remember what kind of soup or how many ounces there are in three cups.

You joke with your husband, "My memory's slipping again - must be the menopause."

Turns out, you may be right.

A study published Wednesday in the North American Menopause Society's journal Menopause analyzed the memory performance of 75 middle-aged women who were transitioning into menopause.

Approximately two-thirds of women complain of memory problems or lapses during this time, said study author Miriam Weber, a neuropsychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

"Our work suggests that there's something to that - there is something to their complaints," she said. "It might not be memory... but it is a cognitive process that's related to the types of things they're experiencing."

By memory, Weber doesn't mean recall ability. Her study showed no direct correlation between the memory complaints and the women's ability to retain information.

However, the study did show a deterioration in the perimenopausal women's "working memory," or their ability to take in new information and manipulate it. For instance, participants were given a series of numbers and letters that were mixed up and they had to mentally sequence them, then repeat it back.

The study also showed a decline in attention capabilities among these women.

"Women think that they have forgotten the appointment, etc., but in reality, they probably had difficulty focusing their attention enough to really register that appointment," Weber said. "They may be helped by trying to focus on one thing at a time, eliminating distractions or repeating the new information a few times to successfully 'encode' it."

A 2009 study published in the journal Neurology showed that transitioning women's memory difficulties rebounded to their previous levels after menopause. This shows the link between the two may be due to hormone levels, Weber said. Studies so far have failed to prove the direct link, but that may be because of an inability to properly measure the hormones day-to-day.

"In [menopause], there's a linear decline in estrogen. But during the transition there's tremendous fluctuation," Weber said. The fluctuation, instead of the drop, may be contributing to what some call foggy brain. "It's subtle changes, [but] it might be good for women to know that what they're experiencing might be normal."

Weber and her team will continue to study the participants over five years in order to determine whether the cognitive problems continue or level out after menopause, and to look for possible interventions.

soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. RobinE

    I forget where I have parked my car unless I take the time to really note it, tell someone else, and/or write it down. The first time I came out of a store/mall and realized I had no idea which direction to go in to find my car, I just stood there and laughed. It still happens occasionally, but I must be taking at least somewhat better mental notes because I'm not as lost as I was at first.

    March 14, 2012 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fiona

      You just need a really tall car with a remote key that carries a long distance. I once got out of the airport long-term-parking lot bus at the wrong stop, well after midnight, on a cold and wet night. I looked out over a sea of unfamiliar cars, pressed my key while spinning around, and– Lo! - my sweet SUV blinked its lights at me from several rows away. I love that car.

      March 14, 2012 at 19:00 | Report abuse |
    • CN Red

      LOL! I know the experience. On a rainy day leaving the mall, me and two relatives could not for the life of us remember where we parked. Walked around the entire mall, and found the car where we had exited. We still laugh at that to this day.

      March 15, 2012 at 09:08 | Report abuse |
    • Judith Wurtman

      Memory slips during menopause are similar to those during PMS except the former may last a few years as opposed to a few days. In a study we published in a gynecological and obstetrical journal several years ago, we found that attentiveness diminished markedly when women had PMS. Furthermore we found that when serotonin, a brain neurotransmiiter involved in focusing attention, women's memories improved. This was measured with standard neuropsychological tests. Interestingly all it took was the consumption of a specific amount of carbohydrate which will increase serotonin to bring about this improvement. So menopausal women: eat oatmeal,m potatoes, pasta, rice and pretzels and you will be able to focus.

      March 15, 2012 at 17:57 | Report abuse |
  2. Fiona

    Reassuring. But what explains my husband's inability to listen, focus, process information?

    Must be the wedding band.

    March 14, 2012 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gloria Hovde


      March 15, 2012 at 01:51 | Report abuse |
    • glennrobert

      Well I thought it was menopause causing problems and then found out it was my prostate gland! Go figure.

      March 15, 2012 at 03:35 | Report abuse |
    • glennrobert

      Well I thought it was menopause causing problems and then found out it was my prostate gland! Go figure. Not duplicate.

      March 15, 2012 at 03:36 | Report abuse |
    • boarddog

      That comes from years of having to listen and focus on things that don't really mean that much to us. 🙂

      March 15, 2012 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
  3. Jennifer

    I'm actually a few years post menopause now and its alarming to me what goes in one ear and out the other. My hope of course is that it is just menopause related and not something more serious like early dementia starting.

    March 14, 2012 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pamela

      OMG, I feel the same way. I worry daily that I have the early stages of Alzheimers. Last weekend, I found a necklace in a box that I didn't remember buying. I told my gf about it, and she sent me an email with the link to the necklace. I had emailed her when I ordered it online last April. Thank doG somebody remembered;-) These little things are funny, but after so many of them, it does make us worry.

      March 15, 2012 at 17:49 | Report abuse |
    • LAS

      I'm 42 and I m frightened at the huge difference in my memory. I recently started taking college courses again and I question whether I lost my smarts; I feel so dumb not being able to recall information that I learned the night before.

      March 15, 2012 at 20:37 | Report abuse |
    • Charlene Smith

      There needs to be more research on women, menopause and memory problems. My memory is terrible since menopause and it has really scared me in the last few years to think I may have the beginning of dementia at age 57.

      March 15, 2012 at 23:19 | Report abuse |
    • Choconet

      WOW! I'm so relieved to hear I'm not alone! I'm 47 and my short term memory is horrible! I had little panic attacks thinking that I was showing signs of early Alzheimer. I have set reminders on my phone, my computer and in my car just to remember a dental appointment in the late afternoon. What's ironic is when I set a reminder I actually remember and don't need it, but when I don't set a reminder and try to remember on my own I completely forget! UGH!!!

      March 16, 2012 at 10:27 | Report abuse |
  4. Sheila

    Poorer sleep quality have anythjing to do with it?

    March 14, 2012 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • What Now

      Really. I wonder if they took that into consideration. Lack of sleep causes many problems.

      March 15, 2012 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • Choconet

      Are you asking because you see a difference in your sleep pattern or are you suggesting that women suffering from short term memory loss just may not be getting enough sleep? I'm 47 and I sleep just fine getting at least 8 hours a night. I can tell the difference between the quality of my memory from my 20s and 30s vs. the poor quality of my memory now that I'm in my late 40s. I assure you it is not related to a lack of sleep, but a serious change going on in my body as it does some kind of transitioning.

      March 16, 2012 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • cindy

      Had reduced memory also. Was diagnosed as having Sleep Apnea when I was 58. After three months on CPAP machine my Memory was back to normal. Were these 75 women tested for Apnea before the study began? Sleep Apnea definitely causes memory disturbance and could be a contributing factor to their memory decline.
      To learn more about Sleep Apnea visit "cpaptalk.com"

      March 18, 2012 at 22:50 | Report abuse |
  5. Bookenz

    "Memory slips may be due to menopause." Well, NO s***t Sherlock!

    March 14, 2012 at 19:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fred

      Exactly what I was thinking. After all the supposed progress of women, we still can't get the male medical profession to take our complaints seriously. Viagra and Cialis are more important than a cure for cancer...and now we have "Low T" to deal with and medicate. Hot flashes, memory lapses, weight gain, and about 30 other menopausal symptoms are just things we women have to deal with – natural and can't be "cured".

      March 15, 2012 at 08:22 | Report abuse |
    • JenniferUCD

      thought the same thing. I agree w/ Fred too that it's just the medical field ignoring women's issues. Just like my husband, they hear our complaints but they filter our the sound of our voices until it's something they care about. I suppose the researchers working on this "new" finding finally got some funding and decided it was an easy way to get their names in some medical journal.

      March 15, 2012 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • kz

      They had to do a study to tell us women what we've known for generations. Why didn't they just ask.
      i thinks as we age we prioritize differently , gain selective memory, cause alot of it just doesn't matter...Hello.
      now i'm gonna go and fogedaboudit!

      March 16, 2012 at 09:26 | Report abuse |
    • Choconet

      I thought the same thing! I can tell the difference between the quality of my memory from my 20s and 30s vs. the poor quality of my memory now that I'm in my late 40s. These guys act as like "if I didn't say it then it isn't happening." That's crap yes it is!

      March 16, 2012 at 10:38 | Report abuse |
  6. Syama

    Meditation and at least miles daily walk is really helpful in any of the menopausal problems.

    March 15, 2012 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Syama

    Meditation and at least 2 miles daily walk is really helpful in any of the menopausal problems.

    March 15, 2012 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Terry24015

    This is news? Mega millions of women world-wide know this already.

    March 15, 2012 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NC

      I agree.This is nothing new.

      March 15, 2012 at 14:55 | Report abuse |
  9. Tsquared

    I am just relieved that it seems to be during the trasition and that there is hope of going back to normal.

    March 15, 2012 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LAS

      I keep hoping for a memory recovery too, but by the time it's supposed to happen age related memory loss will occur.

      March 15, 2012 at 20:42 | Report abuse |
  10. sam

    It's called too much crap to deal with and not enough time to deal with it. Same as it was when I was in my mid 20's and couldn't remember. I had too much on my mind!

    March 15, 2012 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • boo

      AMEN! By the time we get to menopause we've got so much to do, not enough time to do it, and forgot we were gonna do it anyway!

      March 15, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
  11. jj

    Didn't really have much trouble around the time of menopause. But I can feel the old mind slipping a bit now.

    March 15, 2012 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. aretiree

    What an amazing finding! 'Memory slip" normally arrives for women of increased age. Menopause arrives for women of increased age. Seem it might be natural for the two to go together.

    March 15, 2012 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. I call BS

    I am just speechless at some of these posts.

    Do you idiots even think before you type? Why do you think YOU have a clue as to what is right for ANYONE else? If someone feels ready to leave life, who the f @ ck are you to disagree? You cannot know anyone else's inner life anymore than a stranger can know yours.

    Get off it,you egotistical ja ckwits. It's not your life, it's not your decision. Butt the he ll out.

    March 15, 2012 at 23:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Charlene Smith

      What are you talking about???? We are talking about menopause.

      March 15, 2012 at 23:24 | Report abuse |
  14. yikes

    Yet another study paid for by the government I'm sure. When is this junk science going to stop? I went through menopause when I was 38 YRS OLD. I did not experience any memory problems whatsoever at that time. I'm now 60 and I do have minor memory problems that I have been experiencing this past year. The researchers need to come up with something not so simple as a loss of estrogen since I'm sure mine happened 22 yrs ago and I have never taken any hormone pills since.

    March 16, 2012 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L

      just because you had problems doesn't mean someone else wouldn't. I am 48 and yes I do have these problems and never did before!

      March 16, 2012 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
  15. wowzers

    Oh, totally!! I'm just starting, and my thinking is so fuzzy it's like I'm on drugs. I have a rote job...same thing over and over, and someday? I have to write the process down to get thru it, or take halfa minute to think of something that should take 2 seconds. To be honest, this article comes as a partial relief...I was actually wondering if it was something molre serious.

    This doesn't last, does it?

    March 17, 2012 at 00:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • wowzers

      (Some days) See what I mean?? 😛

      March 17, 2012 at 00:46 | Report abuse |
  16. bm

    When I was 47, I would forget people's names that I worked with. One day, I couldn't remember my phone number. I was so scared I thought about quitting my job. The next year, I stopped having periods altogether. I'm 54 now, memory is better but not the same as it used to be. I try to tell younger women about this symptom because no one told me about it! Now, it takes me about 5 minutes to remember a name I'm trying to remember – pops up later when the conversation has changed. I've grown to accept it but it can still be embarrasing.

    March 18, 2012 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. GraceB

    I'm 53 and am just about done with the menopausal transition. I thought for many years that I was losing my mind. I couldn't even spell simple words, and I have always been a fantastic speller. I found myself repeating stories to people, and had to learn to tell them to inform me if they already heard the story. I actually called my husband at work one day and, by the time he answered the phone, I forgot why I called. Over the course of the last few months, my mind is returning. My spelling is almost back to normal, I switched from a PC to a Mac and had no problem learning the new system. I wouldn't have attempted that a year ago. And, I recently bought a new computerized sewing machine, and it literally took me 10 minutes to learn how to operate it. So, yes ladies. There is hope, and your mind will return home, lol. I still do leave myself a few notes and still occasionally lose my car in the parking lot. But, all in all, things are much better.

    March 18, 2012 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Katie

    I'm NOWHERE near menopause and I'm always forgetting things lol. I think memory loss can be entirely related to many different behaviors, experiences or life changes.

    March 19, 2012 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Billie Byard

    Everytime I look at a CNN, MSNBC, articles that get major attention, problems that are getting medications at the drop of a hat...a man ED or PE. Let it be wrong or be a problem for a MAN and BANG....there is a medication. Women have sexual issues TOO. We TOO....have blood flow problems to the genitals. WOW...REALLY. They tell us to buy a bottle of lubricant. REALLY! That does NOT solve the problem. Be a man and you get it whether you need or not and it will be covered under medicare. Be a woman...and maybe one of these decades...our health issues may actually become important. When will women's issues become important.

    May 8, 2012 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. donahelaine

    Its fantastic post that gives our direction to control and correct them in the right way. I am interesting to search how can i control the symptom of menopause like hot flashes .

    July 6, 2012 at 06:46 | Report abuse | Reply
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  22. Cookie

    Just as one of the posters stated I too have returned to college and can't for the life of me remember what I have study the night before. At age 35 or 36 my Doctor had run some test to check my hormones to see what my levels were, and just as he had suspected I was post menopausal.

    July 9, 2013 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. lilbit

    I am in pri-menopause, the other day I got out of the shower, dried off, hung the towel up and forgot what I was suppose to do next, lasted about 1 or 2 minutes. Another time I was going to the beauty salon, I knew where it was but forgot how to get there, thought about it for about a minute and remembered. This is so scary for me. Anyone else have something like this??

    September 30, 2015 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Debbie

    4 yrs. ago we were pet sitting my sisters dog, my dad was taking out the trash I went out to help with recycle stuff it had been raining I picked up the the recycle stuff next thing I know I slipped fell hit the crown of my head on the cement carport floor, having problems with heat, bright lights, loud sounds, get up set with people when they say nagetive things. Can I be helped

    October 1, 2015 at 18:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Tammy

    I wish it was a transition thing. Had menopause early. My job is so detailed I can't remember this crap anymore. Yeah, I feel like I need a GPS just to get to the store. It's scary. I, I, wish I could stay home, still be able to pay the bills and not have this stress anymore.

    April 12, 2016 at 09:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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