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Stress Management: Reaction to stress may affect brain health

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New research finds that our response to even minor daily stressors, such as getting stuck in traffic or queuing for too long at the supermarket, can affect how healthy our brain is, particularly into old age.




Prolonged chronic stress can lead to a wide range of adverse health consequences, from diabetes, heart disease, and sexual dysfunction, to mental health conditions, such as depression, burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and even schizophrenia.

Zooming in on the effects that stress has on the brain, recent studies have suggested that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol may impair memory.

But how do small, daily stressors affect the aging brain? New research, led by Robert Stawski, an associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon’s State University in Corvallis, suggests that it is not so much the stressful events in themselves, but our reactions to them that harm our brain health.

Specifically, Stawski and colleagues examined how seniors’ response to everyday stressors, such as a traffic jam, affects their cognitive health.

The findings are available in Psychosomatic Medicine, the journal of the American Psychosomatic Society.

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Studying stress and cognitive health

Stawski and colleagues examined 111 seniors aged between 65 and 95 for 2.5 years. Throughout the study period, the researchers evaluated the participants’ cognitive health using standardized assessments every 6 months.

Some of these assessments included asking the seniors to look at two sets of numbers and then say if the same numbers appeared in the two sets, albeit in a different order.

Previous studies have suggested that performance in these tests is an indicator of so-called response time inconsistency — a marker of impaired cognitive processing and poor brain health.

Over the 2.5 year period, the participants completed the exercises up to 30 times. The researchers also asked the participants to talk about the stressors they had been subjected to that day, as well as about the stressors experienced by their family members and other close friends.

The seniors rated their feelings during a stressful moment using a range of positive and negative emotions, as well as a scale of intensity. Finally, they also completed a checklist on physical symptoms.



Stress response affects brain health

Overall, the study found that people whose response to daily stressors involved more negative emotions and were of higher intensity had higher inconsistencies in their response time, suggesting poorer mental focus and brain health.

The research also revealed significant age differences. For instance, the older participants — who were in their late 70s and up to their late 90s — were most affected. That is, their high-stress reactivity correlated strongly with worse cognitive performance.

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However, for those in their late 60s to mid-70s, more stress seemed to benefit their cognitive health. “These relatively younger participants may have a more active lifestyle to begin with, more social and professional engagement, which could sharpen their mental functioning,” Stawski speculates.

The study’s lead investigator adds that older seniors should pay more attention to their emotional response to daily stressors and try to reduce their stress where possible to preserve their cognitive health well into old age.

“We can’t get rid of daily stressors completely,” Stawski says, “[b]ut endowing people with the skills to weather stressors when they happen could pay dividends in cognitive health.”

The findings are highly relevant, adds Stawski, given that the population aged 80 and above is the “world’s fastest growing age group.” Indeed, a report issued by the National Institutes of Aging in 2009 found that the world’s “oldest-old” are “the fastest growing component of many national populations.”

In this context, brain health and cognition are particularly important, as the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are on the rise globally, along with the aging population.

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-Medical News Today

Health & Lifestyle

Soft Drink after hot exercise endangers kidney.

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Downing a cool soft drink after a hot workout can feel refreshing. However, according to the latest research, it may cause further dehydration and interfere with kidney function.

Caffeinated soft drinks that are high in fructose are hugely popular worldwide. They need no introduction.



The beverages have been widely lambasted for their potential role in both the obesity and diabetes crises, and a recent study may add a fresh health risk to the growing list.

Researchers from the University at Buffalo in New York recently assessed soft drinks’ impact on kidney health when consumed during and after physical exertion.

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When we exercise in a hot environment, blood that flows through the kidneys is reduced. This helps regulate blood pressure and conserve water. It is a normal response and causes no harm.

However, in clinical settings, a steep drop in blood flow through the kidneys can cause acute kidney injury (AKI) because of the accompanying drop in oxygen supply to the tissues.

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Earlier studies have shown that exercise, in general, but particularly in higher temperatures, increases biomarkers of AKI.

At the same time, research also indicates that consuming a high-fructose soft drink increases AKI risk in rats experiencing dehydration.

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Somalia empowers President to appoint foreigner as Central bank governor.

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Somali lawmakers voted on Monday to allow the president to appoint a foreigner as governor of the central bank of the volatile Horn of Africa nation.



Previously only a citizen could be appointed to the role as is the case across much of the continent. The vote was held in the lower house of the parliament.

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An overwhelming majority of lawmakers (158) voted for the change as proposed by the government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo and Prime Minister Ali Hassan Khayre.

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Seventeen MPs kicked against the move even though the government justified the proposal by saying the country needed every available expertise to change its fortunes.

Even though there is no known foreign candidate for the role, a presidential assent – which is seen as procedural – will see government headhunt for a a new bank chief.

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