“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.” — George Burns
I start this article with a quote from legendary George Burns because he lived 100 years. I am inspired by centenarians and always try to learn some tips from their success.
In this piece, I want to touch on a few culprits for dementia, introduce the concepts of cognitive reserves, and how I take preventative measures considering the previously elevated cortisol as a symptom of my chronic stress.
During my cognitive science studies, I learned about the contributing factors to dementia. The most commonly mentioned points were neurological decline, other health conditions, environmental impact, particularly toxins, and genetics.
Many scientists are studying these factors. There is no cure for dementia, but there are many theories about its development. Even though genetics is mentioned, scientists are still yet to find the gene codes causing dementia.
As Burn's quote mentioned, stress, tension, and worry are the culprits triggering many health conditions. This is not just a belief any more. Science literature is full of facts about the effects of stress on mental health and brain health.
There are many studies on the topic but to give you an idea, I want to highlight three remarkable studies related to the impact of chronic stress on dementia onset.
- The first one is from Oxford's BRAIN titled "Midlife psychological stress and risk of dementia: a 35-year longitudinal population study". This 2010 study provided a conclusive remark highlighting the effects of chronic stress causing dementia.
- The second one published by Umeå University in 2013, titled "How chronic stress accelerates Alzheimer’s disease" points out that "Stress steroids can inhibit the general brain activity. Mid-life psychological stress, psychosocial stress and post-traumatic stress disorder cause cognitive dysfunction and lead to increased risk for dementia".
- The third one published by Neurobiology in 2017 titled "Long-term cortisol measures predict Alzheimer disease risk" concludes that "Cortisol dysregulation as manifested by high UFC/Cr level and high UFC/Cr variability may modulate the downstream clinical expression of AD pathology or be a preclinical marker of Alzheimer's Disease".
The body of knowledge indicates that chronic stress is one of the root causes of overall dementia, particularly Alzheimer's Disease.
As we age, our brain cells and the connections degenerate. When these cells and cell connections die, we lose our memory, attention, and task switching functions. Memory loss and confusion are the main symptoms for Alzheimer's Disease.
Coming from a family background with neurological issues, my elevated cortisol levels in my bloodstream concerned me and my health care professionals a lot.
When I started investigating the root causes of my elevated cortisol with my doctors' help, I found out that lack of quality sleep, excessive workouts, and work pressure were significant. Understanding the root causes was an excellent start for taking measures and creating the solution.
Stress was inevitable in my life. I always operate under pressure and experience it deeply. I believe that stress itself is not good or bad. My stress response was my concern. I learned to manage stress by taking personal responsibility.
Awareness of stress-creating situations and eliminating them from my life was a vital step to stay healthy. As studies conclude, like many other aspects of our lives, our neurobiological and mental health are also strongly affected by stress. Thus, effective stress management approach was essential to increase and maintain my physical and mental energy levels.
The problem was with chronic stress blocking energy to my brain. I knew acute stress was essential for my growth, but I needed to address my chronic stress and anxiety. I found many ways to address and deal with them as mentioned in this story, " Why Are We So Tired And What Can We Do?.
In addition to managing my stress and anxiety, the other critical focus area was my brain health.
We have no direct control of my brain as it is an autonomous process. However, we have an indirect effect: providing necessary nutrition, quality sleep, exercise and other requirements for a healthy life.
Let me touch on cognitive reserves as a critical point for dementia.
During my studies, I learned that cognitive reserves could help us prevent neurological and mental issues, especially growing older. I have been focusing on building my cognitive reserves for decades. I reaped many benefits. For example, I shared my experience of beating brain fog in this story: I Fixed My Brain Fog With 7 Simple Hacks.
Cognitive reserve refers to the resistance of our mind to brain damage.
We can prevent brain damage from factors like neurological, environmental, and possibly genetic by using our mind in simplified terms. I believe that the more resilient mind we develop, the lower the risk of brain decline as we age.
To increase my cognitive reserves, I take many preventative actions. I shared my experience in this article titled " How To Turn Everyday Activities to Brain Boosters". Rather than formal and work-related activities, introducing joyful habits to my life helped me keep my mind active and my brain healthy.
My friends ask me why I write every day. Is it just for money?
Frankly, earning money from writing books, scientific papers, and articles is negligible but gaining mental health from these activities is substantial.
When I am writing books, papers, or articles, my mind engages in many cognitive activities such as planning, coordinating, attention, memory, and task switching. Researching and performing writing activities with joy create more dopamine and produce optimal hormonal and neurotransmitters balance in my brain.
Writing creates a lot of positive emotions. Writing and sharing have always been therapeutic for me. The gratitude of touching someone's life with my words is a bonus for my mental health.
Like anyone, I am aging, but with concerted effort, my mental abilities are sharpening. I firmly believe that cognitive reserves are essential ways to prevent mental conditions such as dementia.
I observed several friends and family members with Alzmiers disease. It was not good for them and not for their beloved ones. Like anything in life, taking personal responsibility for our mental health and reducing suffering is critical.
Of course, there are many things beyond our control in life, but there are things within our control, such as building and enhancing our cognitive reserves.
Thank you for reading my perspectives. I wish you a happy, healthy, and productive life.
Reference: Simple & Powerful Life-Transforming Bio-Hacks by Dr Mehmet Yildiz.
If you enjoyed this article, you might check my other articles on News Break.