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Stressing Out Can Damage Your Memory

Stress is probably one of the hardest emotional responses to deal with for many folks. It causes me to nosh on blood sugar-spiking candy and avoid doing most tasks by parking myself in front of the computer for TV show marathons. This always ultimately leads to me being even more frazzled and in a bigger time crunch to get my work done on time. It's no secret that stressing out can lead to some distress on the body and your emotional well-being, and a recent study reveals that it also has a very surprising effect on the way your brain functions.

According to the Daily Mail, researchers at the University of Iowa have discovered that stress actually hampers your short-term memory as you age. Cortisol is a natural hormone that your brain produces when you're stressed out, making you more alert and able to cope with the situation at hand. This is absolutely normal, and without it, it's hard to say what effects would occur if you met your stress-related match. It's part of that whole fight or flight part of your brain that is a pretty basic part of survival. Long term stressing out, or big spikes in cortisol all at once, is danaging, though, and can lead to a multitude of problems from weight gain to anxiety and depression, all of which leave you feeling stressed out even more.

In this study, the results showed that the usually helpful cortisol can break down synapses over time, and can weaken the connections in your brain. Scientist Jason Radley, who was part of the research team, described it as being similar to how beach erosion occurs. When a sandy shore is beaten down by rocks, sediment and even trash, it starts to disintegrate back into the water. Cortisol can eventually do this in your brain, resulting in the complete disappearance of some of these connections,causing your memory to lose its sharpness. Researchers believe that the negative effects of cortisol on the brain may start making an appearance around the age of 65, and continue as a person gets older.

This data could lead to more studies being done on ways to medically cope with stress in people who have high levels of cortisol, like those who are depressed. It also might lead to discovering how to prevent elderly folks from experiencing memory decline as they age, including a lot of us millennials' parents. And while cortisol is only one very small piece of the puzzle of an aging brain, it sure does make me think twice about procrastinating on my projects, or getting myself into sticky and dangerous situations. Even though it's hard to escape stress completely, I think I am definitely going to up my yoga time. I might thank myself in the future for it.