HealthDay News — Middle-aged women, but not men, with a greater number of recent stressful life events have memory decline later in life, according to a study published in the July issue of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Cynthia A. Munro, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues reported recent (within the last year) and remote (from 1981 to one year ago) traumatic events (e.g., combat) and stressful life events (e.g., divorce/separation) among 337 men and 572 women in wave 3 (1993 to 1996) of the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area study. The Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and word-list memory test were completed at waves 3 and 4 (2004 to 2005).

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The researchers found that in women, but not men, a greater number of recent stressful life events at wave 3, but not more remote stressful life events, correlated with greater verbal memory decline by wave 4. There was no association for stressful events with change in MMSE, and no correlations were seen between traumatic events occurring at any time and subsequent memory decline in either sex.

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“We can’t get rid of stressors, but we might adjust the way we respond to stress, and have a real effect on brain function as we age,” Munro said in a statement. “And although our study did not show the same association for men, it sheds further light on the effects of stress response on the brain.”

One author disclosed financial ties to Awarables.

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