Women's memory can begin to decline in their 50s, claims new study

Researchers said the signs of a cognitive slow-down were not a pre-cursor to a decline in other areas of a woman's health

A new study has suggested women start losing their memory and the ability to think as quickly in their fifties, an age range earlier than previously thought.

Researchers from UCLA and Brandeis university studied over 2,000 women in their forties for 10 years after menopause and found their cognitive speed declined by five per cent over the ten year period. Their verbal episodic memory also declined by two per cent in the ten years.

The women were measured every one to two years for an average of six and a half years.

“Our results provide strong, longitudinal evidence of cognitive ageing in midlife women, with substantial with-woman declines in processing speed and memory,” they wrote in the study published in PLOS ONE.

The study found there was “cognitive ageing in women in midlife, with significant longitudinal declines in both processing speed and verbal memory”.

The authors noted that previous studies have not consistently measured cognitive performance in those under 60 and said that following their results further research is needed to identify factors which could influence the decline rates and to develop interventions which could slow cognitive ageing.

They also said that while these changes happened around the time of menopause, they did not think the cognitive slow-down was due to these hormonal changes as they “did not see a sharp acceleration of cognitive decline during or after the menopause transition”.

Researchers also said the signs of cognitive ageing were not a pre-cursor of a decline in other areas of a woman’s general health and wellbeing.

Men were not surveyed during the study but previous studies have suggested men over 40 have worse memories than women of the same age and that women are generally better at remembering conversations than men.

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