Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease – Are They Related?Alzheimer's, Dementia & Memory Care | December 17, 2015
You already know that living a healthy lifestyle is important for your overall quality of life; eating right, exercising regularly, getting a good night’s sleep, and managing your stress levels. This healthy lifestyle can also be key to preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and recent studies have shown that there is a definite link between stress and Alzheimer’s.
The way we handle stress in our younger years changes as we grow older. Basically, like other parts of our bodies, the neuron circuits on our brains begin to wear out with time and are less able to recover from the chronic stress.
Stress: One of the Proven Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease
While your age is what puts you most at risk, stress can certainly be one of the causes of Alzheimer’s disease, too. Studies have shown that cortisol, a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland during stressful times, can play a role in the development of the disease.
However, not all stress is negative. During short periods of stress, or acute stress, cortisol levels rapidly increase in the bloodstream, which can actually improve your short-term memory and help your body adapt and deal with the situation effectively. It is long term stress, or chronic stress, that keeps those cortisol levels elevated for extended periods of time within the bloodstream that have detrimental effects.
Studies were conducted about twenty years ago that compared the amount of cortisol in the bloodstream of healthy individuals to those already with Alzheimer’s. It was found that those with Alzheimer’s had elevated levels of cortisol in their bloodstream. Chronic stress is one of the culprits behind increasing the plaques, or protein clumps, in the brain that disrupt normal functioning, thus causing memory loss.
How to Reduce Stress in Your Live for a Healthier Future
If you find you have a difficult time keeping your stress levels down, there are a few ways to go about reducing it and living a healthier life overall. Here’s how to reduce stress, improve your health, and lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease:
- Try a Yoga class. Yoga for seniors provides a relaxing way to let go of the tension you’re feeling throughout your body, especially throughout your back and shoulders. Yoga also helps reduce anxiety, can lower your heart rate and blood pressure and help you breathe easier.
- Meditate. Meditating doesn’t require any special equipment or a fancy gym, and can be done from the privacy of your own home. It helps protect you from chronic stress as your heart rate and breathing slow down and you use oxygen more efficiently.
- Do some breathing exercises. Another easy way to reduce your stress is to practice breathing exercises. A few deep, controlled breaths that only take a few minutes of your time can dramatically lower your stress levels.
- Look at things differently. When you find a situation particularly stressful, sometimes just looking at it from a different angle can make it less stressful. Try looking at the positive side of things instead of focusing on the negative.
- Get physical. Regular exercise is another great way to enhance your cognitive function and improve your concentration. Simply take a quick walk around the block and you’ll feel your energy levels increase while your stress starts to slip away.
- Treat yourself. Perhaps a nice dinner out with a friend or a peaceful massage elevates your mood and helps your relax. Treat yourself from time to time to unwind a bit and restore your energy.
For more information about memory care assisted living at American Senior Communities, please visit www.ASCSeniorCare.com/service/memory-care-assisted-living/.