Brain Remains Healthy After Menopause

Cognitive decline after menopause offset with higher education levels

(RxWiki News) Women's brains may be more likely to begin declining after menopause, but not necessarily by much - and a higher level education offsets this decline.

A study investigating the visual and verbal aptitude of women in early and late menopause showed that the women's age played the biggest role in their level of cognitive performance, but being older was a bigger factor for the postmenopausal women.

Declining hormone levels did not seem to affect women's cognitive abilities one way or another.

"More education means a sharper mind after menopause."

Hanna Tuomisto of the Department of Physiology at the University of Turku in Finland led a group that studied 48 healthy women who had not used hormone replacement therapy in the previous 12 months and who did not exhibit cardiovascular, sleeping or neurological problems.

Almost half were currently going through menopause and between the ages of 43 and 51 and a little over half were postmenopause and aged 59 to 71.

The influence of declining hormones was negligible on the women's cognitive performance, though the younger women with lower levels of estradiol, a type of estrogen, showed slightly better visual memory.

Among the women in postmenopause, those with more education performed better when it came to verbal and visual functions, attention and memory. The older women performed more poorly in visual memory and attention tests but not in vocabulary.

The authors concluded that menopause itself does not lead to a slower brain because women's cognitive functions were preserved well after menopause. Rather, age has the biggest influence.

The study appeared online in December in the journal Maturitas ahead of print. The authors stated no conflict of interest and did not receive outside funding.

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Review Date: 
January 8, 2012