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Memory Loss Much Faster in Men Than Women

Mar 17, 2015 04:50 PM EDT

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Scientists have finally figured out why it is that men can't seem to remember to pick up their socks or grab the shampoo from the supermarket: they really do have worse memories than women, according to a new study.

Memory loss is a natural part of aging - not to be confused with Alzheimer's disease - but it appears to occur much faster in men, especially after age 40.

The research team examined brain structure and activity in 1,246 people between the ages of 30 and 95 with normal cognitive function.

According to the results, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, overall memory declines steadily starting from the age of 30. Also, the region of the brain called the hippocampus, which is key to memory storage, normally starts shrinking from age 30 through the mid-60s in both sexes. However, for men, this rapid decline was reportedly worse.

It is unclear exactly why this is, but researchers speculate that it's due to the female hormone estrogen, which may protect women's brains from neuron damage until later in life.

However, what researchers hope most people take away from their study is that memory lapses are felt by everyone once they reach middle age, and those who find themselves forgetful should not necessarily worry about the onset of dementia.

"A decline in memory is something that happens to everyone," Dr. Clifford R. Jack Jr. of the Mayo Clinic and Foundation in Minnesota told Healthline. "This type of decline happens in other organs of the body, so why shouldn't it happen with the brain?"

And as seen in previous studies, men tended to score lower than women on verbal mental tests, even as teenagers - at least, until women went through menopause or hit their 50s, and then this advantage seemed to disappear.

The researchers also noted that amyloid accumulation in the brain, a main factor in Alzheimer's disease, is relatively low in most people before age 70, but it increases after that.

Public awareness of Alzheimer's disease has become prevalent in recent years, but just because you forget something doesn't mean you're suffering from dementia, researchers point out - you may just simply be getting older.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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