Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hot flashes and verbal memory

Interesting research from the University of Illinois in an upcoming issue of Menopause. Investigators there observed 29 hot, flashy women and determined that: 1) Women have more hot flashes than they think they do, and 2) The more hot flashes you have, the more addled your brain in a 'find the right word at the right time and use it in the right way' sort of way.

These long-suffering women agreed to wear skin conductance monitors that recorded when they broke out in a menopausal sort of sweat (do you think they got paid or did they just take one for the team?). The number of objective flashes averaged 19.5 per day per woman, but the number they reported was less than 40% of the actual episodes. Let's see, that means they perceived less than 11.7 flashes in 24 hours. I'd like to say I did that in my head, but mental arithmetic makes me sweat these days.

Then the group was invited down to the [hopefully] air-conditioned lab to perform verbal memory tests. The higher the flashes, the lower their scores. Wow, no surprise there. Dr. Pauline Maki sums it up for those of us too hot to put it in our own words: "In other words, the hot flash-memory relationship is not all in a woman's head. It's actually a physiological relationship that you can pick up on, if you measure hot flashes objectively with a monitor."

The researchers also found a relationship between hours slept, or rather hours tossed and turned, and defects in verbal memory. Certainly flashing by moonlight does not enhance sleep quality, but the Illinois doctors did not address whether it was the night sweats or night frets that caused the memory lapse.


Anonymous said...

It's nice to have all this validated, but is there anything to do about it? Also, does menopause actually ever end -- except through death? :) I am really noticing word selection problems in my job and it's making me crazy. I can't take HRT because BRCA positive. I had my ovaries out in January and I think things have gotten worse since then. Anyone have any ideas?

Bear Naked said...

I am surprised that they found that "Women have more hot flashes than they think they do."
Mine are excessively *hot* and until menopause I was always cold and so now *feel* the heat more.

And now in post-menopause I KNOW my brain is definitely addled in a 'find the right word at the right time and use it in the right way' sort of way.


Wendy said...

Flashing by the light of the moon? My, my! What do you do in your spare time, Judy? LOL!

Why, why, why, do "they" have to scientifically prove everything. It seems that nothing is taken seriously until proven in a lab.
Well, we women have known for years that we really do have hot flashes and they really do cause memory lapses.
So - as anonymous said "what can we do about it?"

Femail doc said...

I am always astounded by the things the researchers will chose to prove, often they are those very things we've all known for years as you say Wendy. And I got such a kick out of the "women have more hot flashes than they think they do" research statement, I just had to include it, Bear. Some days, like you, I have the verbal fluency of a TV news anchorperson.

But Anon, yours is the question to research, namely what do women whose brains thrive on estrogen do when they run out of estrogen and can't take supplements. I know that I would have great difficulty if I were not on estrogen, and I actually have post-breast cancer patients who chose estrogen because of their enormous cognitive difficulties. There is research underway on alpha-estradiol, the non-feminizing form of estrogen. What we all had circulating 'back in the day' was beta-estradiol. Alpha estradiol apparently influences the brain but not the breasts. I'm hoping it will soon be available, or some other estrogen analogue that does all the good stuff and not the unwanted.

Mauigirl said...

Interesting...I'm just starting to have the hot flashes and they're subtle enough for me to think "is it hot in here or is it me?" rather than KNOWING what's happening. And I've definitely had more memory issues lately!

Anonymous said...

Let's hope they can get the alpha estradiol road-tested and on the market. Quick, before I find myself employed as a greeter at the store that shall not be named.

Femail doc said...

Hi again Anon: you made me laugh today. I was just at that very store an hour ago. We walked in the door, and the greeter looked right through me as he teetered on his feet. I tried greeting him but alas, no response.

Anonymous said...

Too funny! I'll refrain from my usual lecture about that establishment.