Memory Changes Tied to Menopause

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 14, 2016

Many women experience changes in memory as they get older, and according to a study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers, these changes are impacted by their menopausal status and not simply chronological age.

New research shows transition to menopause causes changes in memory circuitry.

New research shows transition to menopause causes changes in memory circuitry.

The study’s investigators found that women participating in the study who had lower levels of the sex hormone, estradiol – known to decline during the menopausal transition – performed more poorly on a verbal memory task than those who had higher levels regardless of age. Participants with lower estradiol levels also showed more changes in the brain circuitry that controls memory.

“Our findings underscore the incredible variability of the brain as we age and the critical importance and complexity of the impact of sex on aging, including the unique role of sex steroid hormones in memory function,” said senior author Jill Goldstein, PhD, director of Research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at BWH. “Maintaining intact memory function with age is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time, and applying a sex-dependent lens to the study of memory circuitry aging will help identify early antecedents of future memory decline and risk for Alzheimer’s disease.” Read More »

Eat Blueberries Regularly to Delay Memory Decline

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 28, 2015

Research suggests that eating berries regularly can boost cognitive function and delay memory decline in older adults by as much as 2.5 years.

July is National Blueberry Month! There are many reasons to celebrate the wonders of blueberries, and even more reasons to add them to your diet. They are delicious, versatile, and deliver dozens of health benefits. A research study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) determined that eating berries regularly can boost cognitive function and delay memory decline in older adults by as much as 2.5 years.

The study obtained data from BWH’s landmark Nurses’ Health Study. Starting in 1976, nurses aged 30-55 were asked to self-report their food consumption by filling out food frequency questionnaires every four years. In 1995, more than 16,000 nurses then took memory tests every two years to test for associations between cognitive decline and regular berry consumption. Women who consumed two or more servings of blueberries and strawberries per week had a slower rate of cognitive decline compared to women who did not regularly consume berries.

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When Memory Loss Is Cause for Concern

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 11, 2012

Losing your keys, forgetting a name, or missing an appointment—it happens to all of us and it can happen more frequently as we get older.  A certain amount of memory loss is normal as we age but some patients can experience memory loss that is greater than expected. These patients may be suffering from a condition called mild cognitive impairment (MCI).  Patients with MCI can live independently, unlike patients with dementia (severe loss of mental function), however, medical researchers are learning that MCI may be a warning sign of more serious illness.

Memory loss is normal as we age but sometimes it can indicate serious illness.

Several studies have found that patients with MCI have an increased risk of developing dementia.  Nearly 60% of patients with MCI develop Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.  After being diagnosed with MCI, through a series of memory tests, patients can undergo genetic evaluation and specialized exams estimate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease; however, it can be difficult for doctors to easily explain the test results to patients and their families.

Recently, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital announced a new study called the Risk Evaluation and Education for Alzheimer’s Disease Study (REVEAL).  The study’s goal is to learn how to communicate the results of genetic testing and Alzheimer’s risk estimates to MCI patients and their families so that they can gain a better understanding of what it means to have MCI, what are the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and how to cope with problems related to memory loss.

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Butter on the Brain? Think Again.

Posted by Blog Administrator June 13, 2012

Dr. Olivia Okereke

Oil or butter? Dr. Olivia Okereke found that higher amounts of “good” fats, like those found in olive oil, were associated with better cognitive function and memory in women.

We’ve known for some time now that eating too many foods containing “bad” fats – saturated fats or trans fats – isn’t healthy for your heart. Now it appears these fats, which are found in foods such as butter and red meat, may also be bad for your brain.

Dr. Olivia Okereke, of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Psychiatry Department, found that higher amounts of saturated fat, in particular, were linked with worse overall cognitive function and memory over time in women.

On the flip side, higher amounts of one of the “good” fats – monounsaturated fats – were associated with better overall cognitive function and memory. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include olive oil, canola oil, and nuts.

The BWH researchers analyzed data that included food surveys and cognitive test results from a subset of more than 6,000 women, over the age of 65, from the Women’s Health Study.

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Berries Keep Your Brain Sharp – Is that News to You?

Posted by Blog Administrator May 3, 2012

Elizabeth Devore, Berry Research

A study led by Elizabeth Devore (above) finds that just two or more servings of berries each week can reduce memory decline. But will that news change your eating habits?

This past week, it’s been all over the news: Berries keep your brain sharp.

The research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) found that a high intake of flavonoid-rich berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, can delay memory decline in older women by 2.5 years.

This research may sound oddly familiar, and perhaps you’re wondering: Should I pay attention, or is this just one more in a long line-up of research studies on the health benefits of berries?

The truth is: This study is different. Previous studies on berries and memory were conducted in animals or very small groups of humans. This latest research focuses on a large sample of women and is unusually comprehensive.

“What makes our study unique is the amount of data we analyzed over such a long period of time,” explains Elizabeth Devore, a researcher in the Channing Laboratory at BWH and the lead author on this study. “No other berry study has been conducted on such a large scale.”

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