Question: Since I have become menopausal, I have become very forgetful. Although I have no trouble remembering events that happened a long time ago, I do have difficulty recalling such simple things as the name of a person to whom I was just introduced. Am I showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease?
Answer: Loss of memory for names is extremely common in both sexes after the age of forty and is a normal phenomenon of aging. It is not unusual that you would begin to notice these memory lapses after menopause, as I discuss in the next question, estrogen plays a role in brain function, as the decline in estrogen could affect memory. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease go far beyond that of forgetting names or even important dates. Alzheimer’s is characterized b a myriad of other problems including the inability to communicate, sudden mood changes, confusion, irrational behavior, and the inability to cope with daily living. Unless you are experiencing some of these other symptoms, I would not worry about your memory loss. There are some things you can do to help improve your memory function. Many women find that taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause helps restore memory and even improves the ability to concentrate. I do not take estrogen myself, but I rely on “mind games” to help remember names. Specifically, I try to make an association with the name that will stick in my mind. For example, I was recently introduced to a woman named Rita who, like the actress Rita Hayworth had red hair. In my mental file, I stored “red hair” with “Rita Hayworth”. The next time I met this woman, I was able to retrieve her name. This technique works well with many people. I also find it helpful to use the name of this person in conversation immediately after being introduced; this also helps to reinforce the name in your mind.
Dr. Marianne Legato, Professor Emerita of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University is an internationally known academic physician, author, lecturer, and specialist in gender-specific medicine. She is founding member of the International Society for Gender Medicine and also the founder and director of The Partnership for Gender-Specific Medicine at Columbia University and its next iteration, The Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine. These enterprises are the first collaborations between academic medicine and the private sector focused solely on gender-specific medicine: the science of how normal human biology differs between men and women and of how the diagnosis and treatment of disease differs as a function of gender and sex. Her ground breaking textbook on Gender-and Sex Specific Medicine has been published in 2017 in the 3rd edition.
She has published extensively on Gender and Sex Specific Medicine, both scientifically and for the lay public. She is also the founding editor of the journal Gender Medicine, and the Journal Gender and Genome, published for the scientific community. In 1992, Dr. Legato won the American Heart Association’s Blakeslee Award for the best book written for the lay public on cardiovascular disease. She is a practicing internist in New York City and has been listed each year in New York Magazine’s “Best Doctors” since the feature’s inception in 1993.