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An analysis of more than 24,000 people showed that high-stress levels could increase cognitive decline. This can impact memory, concentration, reasoning ability, and other brain functions.

Research has shown that chronic stress can cause a person to lose their health and affect almost every aspect of their life. Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in particular have been linked to memory impairments and a decrease in the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region that is vital for memory functions).

“Our study found that even general stress can cause cognitive decline,” said Ambar Khulshreshtha (MD), the lead author and associate professor of preventive medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta.

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Dr. Kulshreshtha says that while eliminating stress isn’t always possible, it’s possible to learn how to better manage stress by using self-care. Being mindful, getting enough sleep, and being social are all good ways to deal with stress constructively, he says.

Kulshreshtha says that although everyone’s approach to stress is different, it is important to have some tools at your disposal. All this would keep our minds sharp and improve brain health.

Black Adults And Women Reported Higher Levels of Stress Than Their Male Counterparts.

Kulshreshtha along with his colleagues found that higher levels of perceived stress were associated 37 percent more with poor cognition. The findings were based upon data from 10,177 Black participants (42%) and 14,271 White participants (58%) The age range of the participants was between 45 and 98. Six of the 10 participants were women. Nearly 23 percent reported high-stress levels.

Researchers found that those who felt more stressed were more likely than others to be female, be Black, and be younger.

The results showed that 70% of female participants reported experiencing elevated stress levels compared to 30% of male participants. Only half of the participants from Black communities reported higher levels than those of whites. The average age of those who experienced high stress was 62, while it was 64 for those who had low pressure.

Researchers found that people with greater levels had higher rates of cardiovascular disease risk factors, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and high blood cholesterol.

What Makes Certain Groups More Likely To Experience Stress?

YukoHara, Ph.D., director for aging prevention at Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation suggests that younger participants might be more stressed than others. She says that people in their 40s and 50s may have high-stress jobs, as well as the emotional and financial stress of raising children.

According to Dr. Hara who was not part of the study, women are more stressed than men due to the greater number of responsibilities they have in managing childcare and household responsibilities.

She says that women are twice as likely to develop depression than men. Women have a greater caregiver burden than men. Caring for a loved one can be very stressful.

According to the study, African Americans are more likely than whites to suffer from stress due to poverty and discrimination. These findings show that even though white people may be more stressed for different reasons than blacks, It can still cause cognitive decline.

Low education levels and lower family incomes are more likely to experience stress. Kulshreshtha says, “They face daily challenges with food and income, housing insecurity. childcare, and elderly support.”

Also, people with high levels of stress were more likely to live in the southeastern United States. Because stroke rates in this region are higher than the national average, epidemiologists refer to it as the “Stroke Belt”.

Take Steps To Reduce Stress

Percy Griffin Ph.D., director for scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association, said that the study was important because it raised awareness about stress-related factors which may increase the risk of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.

He says, “The more we understand about the impact of lifestyle and behavioral factors on cognition and risk of dementia, the better we will be able to design and implement multi-component strategies that reduce cognitive decline and dementia.”

Hara outlines several ways to reduce stress, such as eating healthy, exercising enough, sleeping seven to eight hours a night, and seeking counseling when necessary.

She says, “It’s also important to take time to relax and connect with people that you trust.” There are many relaxation techniques you can use, such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. It can be beneficial to spend time doing things you love, like hobbies.

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