Study reveals the double impact of chronic stress and depression on dementia risk

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stress-and-depression(NaturalHealth365)  Stress affects people to varying degrees, and the importance of stress management is quite obvious.  However, it’s important to point out that stress is not the sole issue demanding attention.  Significantly, there has been an unprecedented increase in clinical diagnoses of depression over the past few decades.

These two mental health challenges exert a substantial impact on our daily lives.  Researchers in Stockholm, Sweden, delved into the question of whether these conditions also influence the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  Their findings not only confirmed an elevated risk of dementia associated with chronic stress and depression but also highlighted that the combined presence of both significantly intensifies this risk.

Let’s explore the insights provided by the study and consider how this knowledge can positively shape your life.

Are chronic stress and depression becoming inescapable in our modern lives?

Depression and related mental health disorders seem to have woven themselves into the fabric of the developed world, affecting a substantial portion of the population.  While improved screening may contribute to heightened awareness, there’s an undeniable surge in depression as an absolute statistical reality.

In parallel, the modern world is fraught with an unprecedented level of stress, particularly for adults navigating a post-pandemic world laden with uncertainty, inflation, war, and an array of other stressors, raising cortisol levels to staggering heights, maintaining a constant elevation throughout the day.

When you intertwine perpetual external stressors with internal anxieties and an accelerating pace toward burnout, the result is a potent recipe for chronic health issues.

New research examines dual impact of depression and stress on brain health

Researchers in Sweden examined 1.2 million health records in the Swedish medical database to assess the connection between chronic stress, depression, and the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  Over an eight-year period, participants aged 18 to 65 were screened for depression and chronic stress, with subsequent medical monitoring for signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or cognitive impairment.

The study revealed a definite correlation: chronic stress posed a higher risk for Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive impairment compared to depression alone.  Surprisingly, the combined presence of both conditions exhibited an additive effect.  Patients experiencing chronic stress had a 1.87% increased risk of dementia or cognitive impairment, while those dealing with both depression and chronic stress faced a substantial 3.87% higher risk of Alzheimer’s – a noteworthy finding given the prevalence of individuals dealing with both conditions.

Improving mental health is critical for overall well-being

Depression not only disrupts immune system functioning but also manifests in a myriad of social and emotional challenges.  Concurrently, unmanaged stress poses a significant threat, fostering conditions like heart disease, systemic inflammation – potentially leading to cancer – and a general deterioration of overall health.

With the constant ups and downs of life, stress is becoming a regular companion for too many people.  It’s becoming more and more crucial for us to tackle stress head-on before it gets too much to handle.

Natural and easy ways to reduce stress

Dealing with stress doesn’t always require complicated solutions.  While maintaining a balanced (organic) diet, regular exercise, and practicing good sleep habits are commonly suggested, life’s demands often make it challenging to consistently follow through with these habits.

Therefore, you may want to consider exploring the use of supplements like ashwagandha and cordyceps – both have shown promising evidence in reducing chemical stress reactions in the body.

Mindfully engaging in everyday tasks, such as house chores or helping others, can surprisingly be an effective stress relievers.  Focusing on the sensory details, like the smell of the soap or the temperature of the water, has been found to reduce stress and anxiety while enhancing creativity and mood.  Similar benefits can be derived from any mindfulness activity, such as a purposeful stroll in a park where you intentionally observe nature, setting aside distractions and worries.  Simply put, living in the present and reminding yourself of the good things you have in your life can go a long way toward reducing stress.

In moments of acute stress, a hug from a friend or loved one can often release oxytocin, countering cortisol and other stress hormones.

Maintaining a gratitude journal, even for just a few minutes each day, has demonstrated a direct correlation with reduced overall stress levels.

Lastly, posture matters.  Slouching is linked to lower self-esteem and mood, exacerbating stress and depression.  Sitting up (and standing) straight not only fosters alertness and focus but also directly reduces stress hormones.  Good posture contributes to an overall sense of well-being.

Incorporate these natural stress-relieving tips into your daily routine, and when possible, integrate healthy habits like exercise, a balanced organic diet, and proper sleep hygiene.  As a final note, make an effort to be around more positive people and immerse yourself into learning more about cultivating a positive attitude. (Watching videos and reading books about this topic can be very helpful.)

Remember, even a modest level of stress reduction can significantly lower your risk of stress-related cognitive impairment over time.

Sources for this article include:

Biomedcentral.com

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