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Stress, which sometimes seems an inevitable part of daily life, is also a source of wear and tear on both body and mind. Stress is rooted in basic survival instincts known as the "fight or flight" response, which triggers chemicals in the brain and body, designed to help us manage a threatening situation.
Almost everyone is familiar with the physical symptoms of intense stress: racing heart, sweaty palms, and “butterflies” in the pit of your stomach. But it is also possible to experience low-grade, ongoing stress without those immediate symptoms. The chemicals that the body produces are the same however, and negatively affect the body at the cellular level.
Long-term stress, anxiety and depression have been linked with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In fact, some research suggests that long-term stress stimulates the growth of the proteins that might cause Alzheimer's and that can lead to memory loss.
The impact of stress on people's brain health is also affected by other negative lifestyle behaviours. Overeating, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes are among the informal stress management approaches people use, but all of them increase the risk of damage to the brain in the form of a stroke.
Beat Stress for Brain Health
It is possible to reduce stress and improve brain health with 20 minutes of relaxation a day.
Recommended relaxation techniques:
Progressive muscle relaxation – a technique by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles
Biofeedback – a way to measure the body’s physiological responses, and a tool to learn to control them
There are other lifestyle choices that have a two-fold effect on brain health. They're both good for the brain and can help reduce stress levels:
Be physically active at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and drink enough water
Limit alcohol consumption
Get enough sleep 7to 8 hours a night
If relaxation techniques and lifestyle changes do not help reduce stress in your life, talk to a medical professional about counseling and recommended treatment plans.
1. Training the brain to stress less http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/18/health/train-brain-stress-enayati/index.html
2. Biofeedback and stress relief. Biofeedback: How it works, What it does, How to use it! http://stress.about.com/od/programsandpractices/a/biofeedback.htm
3. Roles of stress in dementia investigated http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18577326
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