Inflammation plays a tremendous part in our brain’s ability to remain healthy. Even though our brains have evolved for millennia to respond to stress, it’s the kind of stress that matters for brains. The well known “fight or flight” stress we all need for survival is acute stress. This kind of stress takes over a brain and focuses all senses on personal survival. Hormones flood the human body to enable the fight or flight reactions.
Since most of us do not live in an action-adventure movie, or have to evade charging elephants everyday, we don’t need all those hormones coursing through our bodies and brains as frequently as they tend to in our stressful lives. Over time, the stress hormones, such as cortisol, cause wear and tear on our neurons, and most likely make us more vulnerable to dementia, according to Dr. Gary Small. Doctors know for certain that repeated high stress reactions actually do cause us to think less clearly, and reduce our ability to take in and retain information. At Home Care Assistance, we see frequently the havoc wrecked by out of control stress hormones in our clients who have full mental ability: hospital stays or loved one’s health crisis can cause them to behave as if they had some level of cognitive impairment. Over time, doctors suspect we have permanent damage from too much stress.
To support brain health and memory retention, we need to reduce inflammation. Here are a few suggestions.
- Meditate. The benefits are improved blood flow to the brain because of reduced anxiety and a cleared mind, which improves perspective and likely reduces over-reactions to stressors.
- Take a walk with a friend. This provides a trio of benefits: mental stimulation from conversation, stress relief from pleasant contact with another human being, and help dissipating cortisol and excess insulin from the heart-pumping activity.
- Sleep. Six or more hours a night is good, old-fashioned rest for your brain and helps to prevent strokes, too.
Eat good food to further repair to our immune system from the damage of stress. Celebrate the wonders of olive oil, leafy greens, fish and nuts as you feast on the Mediterranean diet. This way of eating lets you eat your fill and provides great nutrients and antioxidants—just what you need to rebuild an immune system torn-down by daily living in our modern world.
Last, use your head. Challenge your memory every chance you get. For example, learn phone numbers and people’s names instead of relying on your phone. Learn memory tools, such as The Roman Room technique mentioned on page 64 of Dr. Gary Small’s book, “The Alzheimer’s Prevention Program.” This tool has been around for 1000 years and used with great success.