High stress in middle age can reduce your brain size and affect your memory.
The stress increases cortisol levels in the body, which causes the damage.
“The faster pace of life today probably means more stress, and when we are stressed, cortisol levels increase because that is our fight-or-flight response,” says Dr. Sudha Seshadri, professor of neurology at the Unitversity of Texas.
“When we are afraid, when we are threatened in any way, our cortisol levels go up.
“This study adds to the prevailing wisdom that it’s never too early to be mindful of reducing stress.”
The research looked at 2,231 particpants taking part in a heart study. Their cortisol leves were measured each day.
Brain shrinkage and memory loss were found in middle-age participants before the onset of any other symptoms.
The importance of doctors advising to people with high cortisol on ways to reduce stress like getting enough sleep and doing moderate exercise, has been emphasised by Dr Justin B Echouffo-Tcheugui of Harvard Medical School who was involved in the study.
The study is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.