February 17, 2014
1 min read

Thinking skills affected by menopausal symptoms among women with HIV

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Menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, depression and anxiety significantly affect the thinking skills of middle-aged women with HIV, according to a study in Menopause.

Past studies have shown that symptoms of menopause affect mental health more than the reproductive stage itself. Further, menopausal women with HIV experience more severe symptoms of menopause compared with uninfected women.

Pauline M. Maki, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and colleagues analyzed data from the Women’s Interagency HIV Study, which included 278 menopausal women and 708 menopausal women with HIV.

Researchers found that mental processing and verbal memory were associated with depression, anxiety, and hot flashes rather than the stage of menopause in both groups of women. Hot flashes were significantly related to lower mental processing speed. Decreased verbal memory, processing speed, and executive functions like planning and organizing were associated with depression. Anxiety had the most significant effect on thinking skills, especially among women with HIV. Their verbal learning skills were most affected by anxiety.

“Unfortunately, HIV infection is associated with modest deficits in multiple domains of cognitive function, even in women who regularly take their HIV medications. These depression and anxiety symptoms add to those cognitive vulnerabilities, but can be treated,” Maki said in a press release.