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Stress Shrinks Your Brain and Impairs Memory

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Story at-a-glance -

  • Research has linked chronic stress with brain shrinkage, working memory impairment and an increased risk for early onset of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Having elevated blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol can impair your thinking skills and memory over time. A previous study suggests elevated cortisol affects your memory by causing a gradual loss of synapses in your prefrontal cortex
  • Research suggests you can slow down the rate of cognitive decline by 75 percent by restoring your hearing with hearing aids, and by 50 percent by restoring vision through cataract surgery
  • Among the most valuable dementia prevention strategies is a cyclical ketogenic diet, as it optimizes mitochondrial function and supports healthy brain function
  • Other important lifestyle factors that influence your dementia risk include sleep, physical fitness and exposure to electromagnetic fields

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.

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