Posts Tagged "memory"

Wednesday Bubble: What did I forget/hear/see/say…

Posted by on Jul 22, 2009 in exercise, memory/learning, menopause | 7 comments

If  you’re anything like me, you are starting to forget things. Things you need to do, why you walk into rooms, shopping lists, things you said, the whole nine yards. For me, it’s become the norm, not the exception and while I spend a lot of time making jokes about it, it also drives me crazy.

Yet, today’s Bubble is not one that I’m likely to forget. I’d like to think of it as one part inspiration and one part WTF? And it leaves me with a whole lot of questions to boot.

Study findings suggest that gaining weight during menopause may increase the risk for loss of gray matter. Gray matter refers to the cortex of the brain, which contains nerve cells. It is involved in muscle control, sensory perception (seeing/hearing), emotions, speech and finally, memory.

In this study, which was published in the online edition of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers evaluated brain imaging data, demographic information (height, weight) and behavioral measures (perceived psychiatric stress) obtained from 48 healthy postmenopausal women. Data were collected over a 20-year period.

The findings showed a unique association between increase in body weight during the transition from peri- to post-menopause (as measured by body mass index or BMI) and a 22% reduction in grey matter volume. These findings occurred in women who were otherwise healthy, had no history of heart disease or psychiatric illness and did not meet the threshold for obesity (>30 BMI). All women had also undergone natural menopause.

The researchers suggest that weight gain during menopause is a “highly modifiable risk factor” that may help to prevent or slow “potential alterations in brain function that are important to quality of life.”

I’ve written previous posts on cognitive issues during menopause, whether they be linked with life stressors, HRT or aging. Now it seems that researchers are telling us that weight gain may also be a risk factor.

Less clear is how much weight gain and what we should do about it. In general one solution to combating weight gain in midlife is restraint. Coupled with exercise, this may just be the magic formula. In the meantime, I think that we need a few more studies to take a closer look at brain matter changes in midlife.

What do you think?

I just forgot why I’m asking you that…!

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Wednesday bubble: flava flavonoid

Posted by on Jun 24, 2009 in diet | 5 comments

With the acai berry craze hitting its peak, I thought it was high time to devote a post to flavonoids (compounds found in plants, fruits and beverages that have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties) — namely, those found in berries.

Yes, berries, This sounded a bit preposterous until I dug a bit deeper and located a current review in Maturitas, suggesting that berry flavonoids might be important for long-term health in menopausal women. However, researchers still can’t define the most important details, for example:

  • berry type
  • preparation
  • regimen

The amount of berry flavonoid that becomes available and used by the body after eating also varies by individual make up and by the different types of flavonoids.

All of these factors are critical to designing a strategy that will yield the maximum health benefit. Nevertheless, evidence from clinical studies suggests the following:

  • Cancer prevention. Note that this has been controversial since increased consumption of dietary fruits and vegetables and not just berries, have been shown to impact certain cancers such as esophogeal cancer. In the small studies that the researchers cite, cranberry juice and freeze dried black raspberry have been shown to control signaling that promotes the proliferation of cancer cells.
  • Age-related declines in motor skills, learning and memory impairment, specifically, those linked to a decline in the body’s ability to fight circulating free oxygen radicals that can damage cells. Evidence for these benefits are primarily derived from animal and not human studies, and concentrate on strawberries, blueberries and cranberries.

The researchers caution that it’s impossible to define how much of a single berry or combination of berries might help in disease prevention. Hence, it’s too early to make any definitive claims about berry consumption. However, they do emphasize that to date, research supports the importance of berries as part of a healthy, balanced diet for menopausal women.

Personally, I love berries and health benefits or not, I plan to eat as much of them as I can get my hands on this summer.

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A B C…

Posted by on May 26, 2009 in estrogen, memory/learning | 3 comments

Study results reported in the May 26 issue of  Neurology suggests that the menopause transition negatively affects women’s ability to learn.

Researchers evaluated 2,362 women between the ages of 42 and 52 for verbal memory, working memory and the speed at which they proceesed information. All study participants were tested through the four stages of the menopause transition:

  1. premenopause (no change in menstrual periods)
  2. early perimenopause (menstrual irregularity, no gaps in period for 3 months)
  3. late perimenopause (having no period for 3 to 11 months)
  4. postmenopause (no period for 12 months)

The results showed improvements in processing speed during pre- and early perimenopause and postmenopause that were 28% larger compared to those in late perimenopause. Improvements in  verbal memory were 29% larger in permenopause than in  early or late perimenopause, and and become 36% larger compared with postmenopause.

The researchers said that it appears that during the late and early menopause, women do not learn as well as they do during other stages. What’s more, these findings support prior self-reports that suggest that as many as 60% of women have memory problems during the menopause transition. (Notably, there have been some studies that suggest that this is a fallacy.) The study authors add that this lapse in learning ability tends to be temporary and returns during the postmenopause stage. They also point to findings that show that taking estrogen or progesterone before menopause may help to improve verbal memory or processing speed but this effect can be reversed if hormones are taken after the final menstrual period.

This is an interesting study and the findings seem to jive with personal experience, especially with regards to what sometimes appears like a diminishing abilty to process information.  It makes me wonder if taking classes as I go through menopause is a good idea or not! And it equally makes me question the endless havoc that hormones appear to take on our bodies and our minds.

What about you? I’d love to hear your experiences and where you are in the transition, that is, if you can remember to comment after reading this (!)

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Wednesday Bubble: The incredible shrinking brain

Posted by on Jan 14, 2009 in HRT | 2 comments


New research from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study hormone trials demonstrates that HRT may shrink women’s brains. No wonder I can’t forget where I placed those files..

The data, which are reported in the January 13 edition of Neurology, show that women who took hormone replacement comprising estrogen with or without the addition of progesterone had an increased risk for dementia and overall decline of cognitive function.

Researchers measured brain volume and size of microscopic brain lesions in 1,403 women who took estrogen therapy for 18 months or combined estrogen/progesterone for three years or a placebo. The women who participated in the study were on average, about 77 years old.

The findings showed that women who took HRT had brains that were several centimeters smaller than women who took placebo.

The areas of the brain that were most affected by therapy? The hippocampus, which is involved in memory formation, and the frontal lobe which is involved in memory recall. However, no differences were seen in the sizes of brain lesions, which negates the possibility that HRT is leading to tiny strokes that cut off the brain’s blood supply and affecting memory.

When I looked into other reports of this study, I found quotes from the researchers that suggest that the greatest risk may be in women who already have memory problems. More importantly, the findings imply that the risks of postmenopausal hormone therapy may greatly outweigh the benefits.

These data do potentially provide some explanation as to why many women going through menopause experience increased forgetfulness. However, it is clear that the story is not yet complete, as many of us not taking hormones still seem to go through weekly, if not daily memory lapses.

Now…where did I put that….

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I forgot…!

Posted by on May 20, 2008 in stress, women's health | 1 comment

[Artwork courtesy of Ann. Make sure to visit her blog! And thanks Ann!]

I ran across an interesting study that suggests that failing memory during menopause is an illusion. Because estrogen is critical to the brain function and signaling, medical experts have long suspected that the decline in estrogen that occurs naturally during menopause is responsible for memory loss.

To examine the association between estrogen and memory more closely, researchers looked at 800 women in various stages of perimenopause, menopause and post menopause over six years, using test score measures as a sign of brain function decline. Funny thing is, the scores didn’t decline!

Consequently, the researchers concluded that lapses in memory that many of us experience during menopause are less the result of hormones and more the result of life stressors. However, they also stated that it is possible that the tests they used in the study did not measure brain function that depends on hormones.

Regardless, this study is interesting as it gives more credence to the need to reduce common stressors during the perimenopause and menopause years. Whether this means incorporating regular exercise, meditating daily, or engaging in deep breathing, well, it might mean the difference between walking into a room with a purpose AND remembering what that purpose is, and walking into a room with purpose, standing there for five minutes wondering why you’re there, and then walking out. Or going to the store without your list and buying everything but what you need (been there, done that!).

Me? I suffer greatly from the latter! But hey, estrogen decline or not,I can always find something else to do in any room or some other “critical” item at the store!

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