A new study published in the journal Menopause not only shows that when it comes to memory, women outperform men, but that when women do start to experience memory declines it’s due to reproductive status as opposed to age.
Researchers from Boston, Massachusetts set out to see how menopause and levels of sex steroid hormones such as estradiol impact a woman’s learning and memory. Estradiol has been shown in previous studies to impact the structure and function of memory regions of the brain. As levels rise and fall during a woman’s menstrual cycle, verbal working memory performance changes as well. Studies have also shown that a decline in estradiol levels during menopause directly influences alterations in the hippocampus, a region of the brain that controls memory function. Results from this latest study show that as estradiol declines during menopause, so does memory.
Women Have an Edge
Age-related memory problems afflict 75% of the population, and women are the most affected by dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Women also struggle with memory and episodes of brain fog as they move into, through, and beyond menopause. Despite these factors, women with healthy brains still appear to have better memories than do men in midlife and older age. Studies reveal that this memory advantage starts in childhood and becomes more pronounced as we age. Let’s see how it translated in this latest study.
Researchers assessed memory function in 219 men and women between the ages of 45 and 55 by testing episodic memory, executive function, semantic processing, and verbal intelligence. They compared the scores of men and women, as well as women at various stages—before, during, and after menopause.
Women scored better than men, and women in the pre or peri-menopausal stages outperformed women who were postmenopausal. Performance was directly associated with estradiol levels no matter the age.
Protecting Your Memory Regardless of Gender
A vibrant memory starts with nutrition. Enjoy the following brain-boosting foods:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Dark Chocolate
Exercising your brain and body is also important. Case in point: A study from the University of British Columbia showed that regular aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, the region of the brain that processes verbal memory and learning. To exercise your brain, keep reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing chess—keep the brain stimulation coming in different ways, especially with memory exercises.
Experts recommend making sure your iron levels and cholesterol levels remain controlled. The neurotransmitters that control memory function need iron to function properly, and plaque buildup from too much cholesterol can lead to blood vessel blockages in your brain. If your brain can’t get enough nutrients, then your memory may suffer.