Women’s Cognitive Decline Begins Earlier Than Previously Believed

Women’s Cognitive Decline Begins Earlier Than Previously Believed

Mental sharpness in women begins to decline as early as their 50s.

UCLA researchers followed a group of healthy women for 10 years after menopause, found that their average decline in mental processing ability was 5% during the decade-long period. Cognitive processing speed, which includes speed of perception and reaction, showed an average decline of around 1% every two years and verbal memory declined on average around 1 percent every five years.

The researchers examined data on more than 2,000 healthy women enrolled in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, or SWAN, who were tested regularly over several years to measure cognitive changes. The women were in their 40s when they enrolled in 1996 and were followed every one to two years for a median period of 6.5 years.

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Women in their 40s and 50s who find they are forgetting things more often or think they are slower to react may only be experiencing usual aging, analogous to gradual slowing of physical reaction time, running speed, metabolic rate, and other declines that we all experience in midlife.

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