Women Have Better Memories Than Men — at Least Until Menopause

According to new research women are better at remembering things than men, that is, at least, until menopause.

It’s not all that great for the ladies unfortunately.

Researchers say they may shed light on how male and female brains age differently, and why women are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

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About 75 percent of older adults have memory-related problems, and many women report forgetfulness and “brain fog” during menopauseIt’s been shown that women are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as men, although not much is known about why that is or when they become more vulnerable. Senior author Jill Goldstein, PhD, director of research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital said:

“For years, the dominant thinking in the field was that women were at higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease simply because they tend to live longer BUT that idea was perpetuated by research that looked late in life—not at middle age, when key hormonal transitions take place and when changes in memory begin to surface.”

When they compared their results, they found that differences in memory function corresponded to gender and menopausal stage, more so than chronological age.

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Pre menopausal women performed better than men of the same age in all categories of memory. But after menopause women’s scores for tests of initial learning and retrieval of information dropped bringing them to about equal with themen the same age.

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The findings suggest that during or shortly after menopause, women experience changes in the frontal areas of their brains that play a role in short-term memory and advanced cognitive abilities, like organizing, structuring and evaluating information.

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Goldstein is hopeful that one day, doctors will be able to identify if someone in their middle-age is at a high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease years down the road. She says:

“Alzheimer’s disease is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time…Going forward, it is imperative that we understand how to retain memory function throughout life, and that we incorporate these sex differences into future research and therapeutic discovery strategies.”

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