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URMC / Obstetrics & Gynecology / UR Medicine Menopause and Women's Health / menoPAUSE Blog / July 2020 / My memory of recent events is declining as I go through menopause. Now I can’t find my wallet. Are t

My memory of recent events is declining as I go through menopause. Now I can’t find my wallet. Are there any suggestions to help my age-related memory decline?

Your Menopause Question: My memory of recent events is declining as I go through menopause. Now I can’t find my wallet. Are there any suggestions to help my age-related memory decline?

Our Response: New memory requires chemical changes, leading to what now is called a “memory trace.” If not reinforced, by one hour, 50% of the information has been forgotten; by 24 hours, 70% is lost, and by one week, 90% is gone (“the forgetting curve,” Hermann Ebbinghaus, 1885). If you are like the rest of us, perhaps you cannot remember what you had for dinner three nights ago, but you can recall vividly your fourth grade teacher’s name. How often, when you are working in one room and walk into another room to retrieve something, do you forget why you went there in the first place? Or, when you are introduced to someone new at a gathering, you realize you have forgotten the person’s name when you are three sentences into the conversation?

Our neurons transmit information from one neuron to another by tiny spines on axons extending out from our neurons. It is these spines that allow neurons to pass information from one neuron to another. These spines, however, are heavily dependent on estradiol. They enlarge to facilitate memory when estradiol is available, and they shrink when estradiol is low or absent. It is no surprise that as women enter menopause with declining estradiol levels from their ovaries, and since no other estrogens compensate for this loss, that memory declines.

Fortunately, one can take steps to compensate for age-related memory loss. Most of us have a special place (bowl or box) where car keys and wallets are always placed. The risk of losing something as important as a wallet is a life changer.
When I recently lost my wallet, a friend shared a few recommendations. First, I should copy the front and back of each credit card in my wallet along with the phone number I would need to call to cancel it. I also should copy my driver’s license. An additional suggestion was to use one card for payments that are deducted automatically and place that card, along with the copies of the rest of my credit cards and driver’s license, into a safe. The likelihood that an outside individual would Phish into that one credit card is considerably less than the risk for those that typically are used at restaurants and stores.

We cannot avoid getting older. We can, however, modify how we live our lives to manage these age-related changes.

James Woods | 7/31/2020

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