How stress can undermine cognitive benefits of an active lifestyle


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Experts say meditation and other relaxation techniques can help reduce stress. THAÍS RAMOS VARELA/Stocksy
  • Researchers report that cognitive stimulation and personal relationships can protect against dementia, but stress can undermine that protection..
  • Sources of stress may include acting as a caregiver and dealing with the cognitive decline itself..
  • Experts say stress management techniques should be part of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease prevention and care..

Stress can undermine lifestyle factors known to improve cognition among people with Alzheimer disease and other forms of dementiaaccording to new research.

in a study published in the magazine Alzheimer’s and dementiaResearchers at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute report that the cognitive benefits associated with stimulating and rewarding life experiences can be reduced by physiological and psychological stress.

“These results could have clinical implications, as a growing body of research suggests that mindfulness exercises and meditation can reduce cortisol levels and improve cognition,” he said. Manasa Shanta Yerramalla, PhD, lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Neurobiology, Caring Sciences and Society at the Karolinska Institutet, in a statement. “Different stress management strategies could be a good complement to existing lifestyle interventions for Alzheimer’s prevention.”

Past studies have shown that a strong index of cognitive reserve (IRC) appear to have a protective benefit against cognitive decline among people with Alzheimer’s disease.

These CRI scores are tabulated across cognitively enriching and stimulating life experiences, as well as factors such as higher educational attainment, complex jobs, ongoing physical and leisure activities, and healthy social interactions.

In the latest research, the association between CRI scores, cognition and biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease was examined in 113 participants from the Karolinska University Hospital memory clinic along with levels of perceived stress in combination with stress biomarkers psychological, specifically cortisol levels in saliva. .

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The study concluded that while higher CRI scores were associated with better cognition, adjustment for cortisol measures reduced this beneficial association.

Higher CRI scores were also associated with better working memory in people with healthier cortisol levels, but not among people with cortisol levels that indicated a high level of psychological stress.

Dr. Logan DuBosesaid a resident physician at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and chief operating officer of senior care company Olera, who was not involved in the new study. Medical news today that “chronic stress, which can be caused by a variety of factors, including caregiving responsibilities, can lead to elevated cortisol levels. “This can damage the hippocampus (the center of the brain associated with memory formation) and negate the benefits of cognitive reserve and neuroplasticity, potentially worsening dementia symptoms.”

A complex occupation such as pilot, medical professional or financial analyst could help build cognitive reserve, he said. Irv Seldinowner and CEO of senior care company Visiting Angels, “but the persistent high levels of stress of these professions can also lead to increased cortisol levels… which may mean an increased risk of dementia.”

“To maintain healthy cognitive functions, people in these complicated professions should maintain stress management strategies such as meditation, physical exercise or therapy to reduce the risk of further cognitive decline,” said Seldin, who was not involved in the study. . Medical news today. “Stress reduction is a well-known approach to managing the symptoms and behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease. “We teach our caregivers to create a calm and quiet environment to keep our clients calm.”

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“Engaging in mentally stimulating activities can help strengthen neural pathways and improve memory, problem-solving, and communication skills in people with cognitive impairment,” he added. Angela Morell, speech therapist at Georgetown University Hospital. “For example, language-based activities, such as storytelling, word games, or discussions about current events, can be excellent tools… to use with memory clinic patients.”

“It’s important to consider the impact of stress on cognition,” said Morrell, who was not involved in the study. Medical news today. “Chronic stress can negatively affect memory and communication in people with dementia. As speech therapists, we often incorporate stress management techniques into our therapeutic plans, such as relaxation exercises or mindfulness practices. “In addition, it would be valuable to understand how best to manage stress in conjunction with cognitive stimulation programs… to create personalized treatment plans with the goal of improving the quality of life of people with dementia.”

The new study was limited by the small sample size and the fact that lack of sleep (which is known to affect cognition) was not fully controlled for other than to determine whether participants were taking sleep medications.



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