How stress affects your memory

Have you ever found yourself frantically searching for something like your wallet or keys before heading out the door? If this search has seemed even tougher when you are running late for an event or appointment, it's likely that stress isn't helping. The link between stress and memory is being uncovered more every year, but there is already a clear indication that too much stress has an effect on memory care.

Short-term consequences
Those who suffer from chronic stress have been known to also suffer from memory loss and impairment in the brain's learning center. However, new research from the University of California Irvine suggests that short-term stress can also have a major impact in these areas of the brain.

Stress affects nearly everyone at one point or another in life from work, family, school and other events. In many cases, it cannot be avoided. The UC Irvine study found that acute stress, which lasts only for a short amount of time, can activate corticotropin, which stimulates the release of hormones that disrupt the way the brain collects and stores information – memory.

The Alzheimer's link
Alzheimer's disease is form of dementia, and its risk of development can increase with age, though it is not a part of the normal aging process. Dementia and Alzheimer's symptoms can appear gradually, but worsen over time enough to interfere with daily activities. Senior memory loss is the most predominant symptom of dementia. Though there is no cure, there are several ways to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The link between stress and Alzheimer's is starting to find footing in research. NPR reported that Swedish researchers discovered that high levels of stress can increase the risks of Alzheimer's disease later in life. In fact, of the 800 women who participated in the study, middle-aged women who responded that they were stressed out were 20 percent more likely to have dementia or be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease later on. This showed that there is some connection between stress earlier in life and our memory care as we age.

While the study didn't conclusively say that stress causes Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, there is a clear correlation. High levels of stress can have an impact on brain chemistry by releasing the hormone cortisol, which can increase the risk for heart disease and depression, as well as negatively affect memory care.

Combat stress
To reduce the risks of suffering from memory loss associated with stress, there are several things you can do in your daily life. Exercise is crucial for senior wellness, but it also plays a major role in decreasing stress. According to the Harvard Medical School, regular physical activity can have a huge effect on senior mental health by reducing stress, depression and anxiety. These negative feelings can otherwise wreak havoc on health.

Senior nutrition is another important part of living a healthy life and reducing stress. Eating foods that are high in fat, sugar or are highly processed can put stress on the digestive system. Toxins in foods can also be a bad influence on mental health and the immune system. To stay healthy, it is important to eat a variety of foods and nutrients, and get plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. Eating foods that are high in nutrients and are not processed is typically the best for bodies. Everyone knows they should eat their fruits and vegetables to stay healthy and maintain a normal body weight, but it will also reduce stress caused by other bad foods.

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