Memory loss is a common complaint among women going through menopause, and a new study confirms that menopausal women do indeed tend to have more trouble remembering things. It also suggests that the more often they have hot flashes, the more they feel their memory has declined.

Researchers from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University found that previous studies investigating the relationship between menopause memory loss and hot flashes had inconsistent results, so they conducted their own experiment.

In a sample of 68 healthy middle-aged Chicago women who had at least 35 hot flashes per week, the researchers collected information about their menopause symptoms, mood, sleep quality, and feelings about their memory.

They also administered a standard battery of cognitive tests to objectively assess the women's memory, attention, and information processing speed.

The results, published online in the journal Menopause, confirm those of a recent study that found that women who feel like they have worse memory loss actually tend to perform more poorly on memory tests.

In addition, women in this study who reported more hot flashes tended to complain of memory loss more than those who had fewer hot flashes. The frequency of hot flashes was also associated with longer duration of subjective memory decline during menopause.

That doesn't necessarily mean that women with more hot flashes actually have worse memories.

"A review of studies comparing subjective and objective cognitive performance in adults of both sexes concluded that subjective memory complaints are not reliably related to cognitive impairment but are consistently related to depressive symptoms," the researchers wrote.

Indeed, women who said they felt more depressed in the study performed worse on the cognitive tests than women who reported fewer negative emotions.

It's unclear what causes menopause memory loss, though Dr. Miriam Weber, the University of Rochester Medical Center psychologist who conducted the previous study on menopausal women, suggested that shifting hormone levels might be involved.

"While absolute hormone levels could not be linked with cognitive function, it is possible that the fluctuations that occur during this time could play a role in the memory problems that many women experience," she told the Daily Mail in January.

Fortunately, the researchers suggest that while symptoms of memory loss may increase during menopause, they usually return to normal levels afterward.

"The largest study of objective cognitive performance across the menopausal transition indicates that processing speed and memory decrease during perimenopause but return to expected levels during postmenopause," they wrote.


Drogos L L, Rubin L H, Geller S E, et al. Objective cognitive performance is related to subjective memory complaints in midlife women with moderate to severe vasomotor symptoms. Menopause. 2013.