Once a woman has experienced menopause, she enters a phase known as postmenopause. Usually beginning around the age of 51, postmenopause is a new life stage and, with menstruation having stopped, it would be expected that the hormone-induced memory lapses that may have plagued the perimenopausal process would have also stopped. Unfortunately, this is not automatically the case. While hormones will level out and there will be a decrease in the majority of menopause symptoms, this is not to say that memory lapses will disappear completely, due to various environmental and biological factors.
Memory Loss and Aging
A certain amount of memory loss occurs as an inevitable part of aging. The cognitive functions are comprised of the various parts and processes in the brain that control memory and - like other muscles and function in the body - as you age, these may be become weaker, causing frequent lapses in memory. As a rule, memory loss is less apparent in those who exercise regularly, remain social, limit their alcohol consumption, and keep their brain stimulated with puzzles, activities, and regular periods of concentration.
Memory Loss and Depression
Memory loss is also symptomatic of a number of conditions that aren't related to hormones and menopause. Depression, stress, or anxiety issues are likely to cause ongoing distractions, sleep disorders, lack of energy, and lack of engagement, making it difficult to absorb information in the first place, and even more difficult to willfully recall it at a later date. Studies have shown that depression is common in postmenopausal women due to a combination of hormonal and environmental factors, which could result in or worsen memory lapses.
Other Causes of Memory Loss
Memory issues can also be caused by other health conditions that could be treatable. These include:
- Liver, thyroid, or kidney disorders
- Tumors or infections in the brain
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Blood clots
In these conditions, memory loss is likely to occur alongside other noticeable symptoms. If you notice anything concerning, arrange a consultation with your doctor to rule out or treat any health conditions.
When to Be Worried
The fact that memory problems do not display physical symptoms can make it difficult to know when to be concerned. Look out for the following signs:
- Forgetting the names of familiar objects, people, and places
- Loved ones or colleagues have expressed concern
- Becoming easily disorientated and confused
- A decline in productivity at work
- Getting lost on familiar routes
- Neglecting personal hygiene
If two or more of these symptoms become apparent, it's a good idea to consult your doctor, as these could be symptomatic of the serious memory impairment that comes with dementia. While dementia cannot be cured, it can be managed and its effects minimized with specific care techniques and adjustments. Learn how to distinguish memory lapses and dementia.
So long as you feel that you are enjoying your lifestyle and memory lapses are not obstructing that in any way, there is most likely no reason to be worried. Remember, like other skillsets, memory can be strengthened and improved, so you don't have to idly allow lapses to take hold; keeping the brain stimulated and active is key to fighting memory loss postmenopause with brain-training activities, like reading, card games, board games, and puzzles.
- Better Health Channel. (2012). Alcohol-related brain impairment. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Alcohol_related_brain_damage?open
- Food and Drug Administration. (2010). Coping with Memory Loss. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm107783.htm
- Henderson, V.W. (2008). Cognitive Changes after Menopause: Influence of Estrogen. Clinical obstetrics and gynecology, 51(3), 618-626. doi: 10.1097/GRF.0b013e318180ba10
- National Institute on Aging. (2014). Forgetfulness: knowing when to ask for help. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/forgetfulness
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). The aging brain. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from http://womenshealth.gov/aging/mental-health/aging-brain.html
- Uchida, S. & Kawashima, R. (2008). Reading and solving mental arithmetic problems improves cognitive functions of normal aged people: a randomized controlled study. Age, 30(1), 21-29. doi: 10.1007/s11357-007-9044-x