One standard joke among men and women is that women tend to lose their ability to concentrate and find words during conversations as they reach menopause. These concentration and comprehension problems during menopause may not be just an old wives tale.
During menopause the estrogen levels in a woman drop which causes a decline in ovarian function and loss of menstruation. This is the definition of physiological menopause or menopause that is cause naturally.
In recent research from Melbourne Australia researches investigated the effects that estrogen has on the cognitive function of women. Estrogen has been shown to have a wide variety of effects on the brain structure during development and on the function of the brain. Because previous studies have been inconclusive this paper reported on 81 postmenopausal women who lived in the community (weren’t bound to a nursing home or assisted living center) in Australia.
In this study the women were split between those who had used hormone replacement therapy and those who hadn’t. They evaluated measures of general, verbal and visual memory as well as delayed recall, attention, concentration and verbal comprehension.
Although there were differences noted in women who had never used and those who had used hormones in the area of verbal memory, once the researchers adjusted for differences in age, education and concentration the differences weren’t statistically significant. Researchers therefore concluded that long-held beliefs about the usefulness of hormone replacement to protect against cognitive decline should be more fully evaluated.
In another study researchers studied the effect of estrogen on the comprehension of metaphoric speech in women who were schizophrenic. This study was relevant to women who suffer from menopause because women who are schizophrenic also suffer from hypoestrogenism.
In past studies the results were inconclusive or not positive about the effect of estrogen supplementation on the comprehension of metaphoric speech but in this study the results were positive. Because researchers found an improvement in formal thought and language disturbances they believe it has implications for the treatment of women with schizophrenics. It also points to a biological factor that impedes the comprehension of women proceeding through menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy is used to describe the prescription of estrogen and progesterones to women who are suffering the symptoms of premenopause and menopause. However, the prescription of estrogen doesn’t come without risk. Estrogen shouldn’t be used in patients with a history of breast cancer, thrombophlebitis, severe migraine headaches and liver disease or abnormal menstrual bleeding.
While comprehension problems may be common during menopause, it is a disturbing problem that must be taken seriously. Women can find relief knowing that they aren’t losing their minds and that as their body adjusts to the changing hormonal levels many women are able to return to their previous level of understanding and mental agility.
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