Stress May Be Literally Shrinking Your Brain. De-stress NOW

A new study claims stressed out people may have smaller brains. They blame it on the ‘stress hormone.’

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Can stress shrink your brain?
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Take a deep breath before you read this. Go sit under the sun. Stretch. Practice yoga. A new study, published in the journal Neurology, says stressed out people may have smaller brains. They blame it on higher volume of cortisol, also known as ‘stress hormone.’

According to the study, middle-aged adults with the highest levels of cortisol had lower brain volume and cognitive functioning compared to people with lower levels of the hormone. Basically, those who take less stress.

Cortisol is responsible for a bunch of things in your body, but is also released when you are stressed, specifically during what’s called the ‘alarm stage’. During this stage, the sympathetic nervous system gets activated, blood drains from the brain and rushes to muscles to help you be ready for 'fight-or-flight mode'. The stress hormones, adrenaline, cortisol and non-epinephrine are released during this phase.

The Study

Over 2000 dementia-free adults with an average age of 48 were part of the Framingham Heart Study. They had to undergo a psychological exam, which tested memory and thinking skills like abstract reasoning, visual perception, attention, and executive function, along with blood samples and MRIs at the beginning of the study, and again about eight years later.

The researchers found a connection between elevated cortisol levels and lower total brain volume and lower scores on memory and cognition tests.

Higher cortisol was associated with worse memory and visual perception, as well as lower total cerebral brain. The association was more evident in women.

Shrinking brain is also linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s, but the study authors warn it’s too early to link the both together.

The lead study co-author Dr. Sudha Seshadri recommends relaxing as much as possible. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, getting enough sleep and human interaction are all known to reduce stress.

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