Treatment considered for menopausal women who can’t focus
She said some women may have trouble thinking because hot flashes keep them from sleeping. The hormonal transition also occurs at a time when many women are seriously stressed. They’re at peak earning potential and may be helping children, parents, and even grandparents.
“I think we’re in general overloaded with stimuli these days,” she said. “Midlife women have an awful lot to do.”
Epperson said the women in her study were considerably smarter than average. In her practice, she said, the women who are noticing these changes are doctors, professors, CEOs, doing intellectually challenging work that requires lots of juggling.
“The women who notice this are the ones that are pushing the cognitive load really hard,” she said.
The study looked at five domains: organization and activation for work; sustaining attention; sustaining alertness, effort, and processing speed; being able to work while distracted by strong emotions; and using memory and working memory, which is the ability to hold thoughts in your head while working with them.
Problems with emotional interference were not affected by the drug, but the other domains were.
Epperson, who went into menopause four years ago at age 46, takes estrogen herself. She says treatment for cognitive symptoms needs to be tailored to each patient. “No one treatment is good for everybody,” she said.
She isn’t worried that her research will make others question older women. “We can’t pussyfoot around,” she said. “I’m just trying to figure out how to help women, who are going to live longer than men, live the best life they can. I don’t think that’s stigmatizing.”
Maki is in no hurry to medicalize menopause, but thinks medicines have a role for women who are struggling: “If women are doing all the right stuff and they’re still not thinking clearly, why not go for a little chemical help?”
Like others, she said the best thing anyone can do to protect the brain is to exercise.
©2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at www.philly.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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