April 20, 2010

Menopause and Memory Loss

Posted in Category : Women's Health

When you are nearing menopause, you can often begin to feel a little fuzzy. Memory loss and a trouble remembering little details about things you otherwise wouldn’t have forgotten are not only a part of growing old, but could have also been brought on by menopause.

Women nearing menopause often complain of forgetfulness, problems in concentration, and in severe cases, even dementia. While most women may feel extremely uncomfortable with this notion and the experience; the truth is that it is a completely normal thing. Though there are factors that link menopause to memory loss; recent studies have shown that menopause alone is not responsible. There is a combination of factors that may cause a woman to be unable to concentrate and remember small details.

Our brain has a very complex mechanism for retaining memory. Till date, it is not completely known how the brain processes events and thoughts into memories and stores them. The brain is tuned to not only store information but retain and retrieve it. There are three stages in which memories work. The first one is known as registration, the second one is retention, and the third recall. Our senses help us register memories. The smells, touch, taste, and thoughts are first registered in their brain, which essentially means that the brain acknowledges them.

As the second step, the brain needs reinforcement of the sensations. Thoughts, touch, sights, and smells that we experience repeatedly get retained in the memory. The memory is also of two kinds, short term and long term. Small information that we consider rather insignificant is usually kept in the short term memory for easy retrieval. However, superfluous information about our past is registered in the long term memory.

Lapses of memory are possible at any stage of life. Though a natural part of ageing, the changing levels of estrogen during menopause are considered to be a key factor in the memory loss experienced during menopause. Estrogen plays a very active role in the retrieval of memories. It is estrogen that helps stimulate the neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are essential for maintaining communication between the various parts of the brain. In the brain, estrogen helps in dilating the blood vessels, therefore increasing the amount of blood available to the brain. Perhaps this is the reason for women to become more forgetful during menopause. Still scientists are continually researching on this subject and believe that the symptoms of menopause itself may be responsible for the memory loss experienced.