For years, Alzheimer’s Disease has been recognized as a most insidious disease because of its ability to rob our loved ones of their mental faculties while we helplessly watch them succumb.
While the causes are unknown, and no cure has yet to be discovered, scientists are making inroads into discovering what could be exacerbating the disease. A few years ago, researchers in England began to research the connection between stress and Alzheimer’s.
Much of this research has centered around the connection between cortisol and brain function.
Cortisol is a hormone that is released into the body when it is under stress or emotional distress. This hormone is part of our body’s natural “fight or flight” instinct.
When our body produces extra cortisol, our heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure all increase, which is in keeping with what we already know about how we deal with stress. It also decreases (and in the case of extreme stress, shuts down) our non-essential functions such as the digestive and immune systems.
But the research has also found that if you have “chronically” high cortisol levels (i.e., levels caused by constant levels of stress and anxiety), then you could see memory loss and decreased brain activity.
Those with continued high levels of stress due to work or home circumstances may be more prone to develop Alzheimer’s more rapidly. Although the stress does not cause the disease, it can make it progress faster and cognitive levels can decline at a greater rate than those who are not suffering from stress.
Because of this strong connection, it’s imperative that people (especially those with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease) should try to decrease their stress levels through meditation, proper diet, regular exercise, and sleep. Relaxation techniques including therapy, massage, and taking part in hobbies and sports can help as well.
Until we can completely eradicate the scourge of Alzheimer’s Disease, it is important that we do everything we can to alleviate its impact on victims. By cutting down on a person’s levels of stress, you may not stop them from developing Alzheimer’s, but you can help to stave it off so that it doesn’t progress as quickly.