Wrecks your memory, are you overexposed to this?
Wrecks your memory, are you overexposed to this? by Dr. Mercola via Health Nut News
Studies have found strong links between acute and/or chronic stress and a wide variety of health issues, including your brain function and risk for dementia. For example, animal research published in 2014 reported that elevated levels of stress hormones can speed up short-term memory loss in older adults by inducing structural changes in the brain.
The findings indicate that how your body responds to stress may be a factor that influences how your brain ages over time. Previous research has also linked chronic stress with working memory impairment and an increased risk for early onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fortunately, there’s compelling research showing your brain has great plasticity and capacity for regeneration, which you control through your diet and lifestyle.
Based on the findings linking dementia with chronic stress, having effective tools to address stress can be an important part of Alzheimer’s prevention, not to mention achieving and maintaining optimal health in general.
Stress Impairs Cognition and Memory, Recent Research Shows
Most recently, researchers warn that having elevated blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol can impair your thinking skills and memory over time. The researchers used the government-sponsored Framingham Heart Study database to identify more than 2,200 people who did not have any signs of dementia, and followed them for eight years. As reported by The New York Times:
“Researchers gave tests for memory, abstract reasoning, visual perception and attention to 2,231 people, average age 49 and free of dementia. They recorded blood levels of cortisol and did MRI examinations to assess brain volume.
The study, in Neurology, controlled for age, sex, education, body mass index, blood pressure and many other variables, and found that compared with people with average levels of cortisol, those with the highest levels had lower scores on the cognitive tests.
In women, but not in men, higher cortisol was also associated with reduced brain volume. There was no association of the lowest cortisol levels with either cognitive test scores or brain size.”
A significant limitation of the study is the fact that blood levels of cortisol were only checked once, at the end of the study, and may therefore not be representative of people’s long-term exposure to this stress chemical.
Still, a number of other studies have reported similar findings, so the link between stress and cognitive decline certainly appears to be real. Lead author Dr. Justin Echouffo-Tcheugui, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, commented on the findings:
“Our research detected memory loss and brain shrinkage in middle-aged people before symptoms started to show in ordinary, daily activities.
So, it’s important for people to find ways to reduce stress, such as getting enough sleep, engaging in moderate exercise, incorporating relaxation techniques into their daily lives, or asking their doctor about their cortisol levels and taking a cortisol-reducing medication if needed. It’s important for physicians to counsel all people with higher cortisol levels.”
Stress Hormones Have a Corrosive Effect in Your Brain
When you’re stressed, your cortisol rises and, together with adrenaline, triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response. Cortisol also increases the glucose level in your bloodstream and temporarily enhances your brain’s use of that glucose, while simultaneously suppressing bodily functions deemed irrelevant during an emergency, such as digestion.
While this cascade of biochemical effects is beneficial when you’re in immediate physical danger, cortisol has a corrosive effect that, over time, actually wears down the synapses responsible for memory storage and processing. This was demonstrated in the 2014 animal study mentioned earlier.