Study Finds Daily Stress Causes Brain Health Deterioration In Seniors

Stress Brain Function Elderly
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A new study found that daily stress can lead to brain deterioration in senior citizens.

According to a report from Science News, a new study from Oregon State University found that older adults who become stressed by daily activities show more rapid deterioration in cognitive health than those who take these things in stride. From typical announces like traffic jams or long doctor’s office waits, those who reacted emotionally on a regular basis showed a marked decline in brain health and an increase in diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“These results confirm that people’s daily emotions and how they respond to their stressors play an important role in cognitive health,” said Robert Stawski, an associate professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences and the study’s lead author.

“It’s not the stressor itself that contributes to mental declines but how a person responds that affects the brain.”

OSU students Eric Cerino and Dakota Witzel along with University of Victoria student Stuart W.S. MacDonald co-authored the study, which appeared recently in Psychosomatic Medicine, which is the American Psychosomatic Society scholarly journal.

The largest growing group of adults is the 80 and older category, and this research is the latest of several that point to typical daily stressors causing severe issues with health, well-being, and cognition.

The study consisted of 111 older adults ranging in age from 65 to 95. For 2.5 years, the study followed the adults, and once every six months, the participants completed six days worth of cognitive testing throughout two weeks. They reported the stressors they’d experienced that day, and they looked at two different strings of numbers and determined if they appeared in both groups.

Study authors found that the oldest participants, who ranged in age from late 70s to mid-90s, in their research who reacted more emotionally to typical day-to-day situations also experienced a significant decline in cognitive ability. However, their younger subjects ranging from the late 60s to mid-70s actually did better the more stressed they were on any given day during the study.

“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 said.

Based on that finding, the authors suggest that as people age, they should become more aware of their reactions to typical stress in their lives. “We can’t get rid of daily stressors completely,” Stawski said.

“But endowing people with the skills to weather stressors when they happen could pay dividends in cognitive health.”

According to the CDC, as many as 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia. Plus, the number of people who live with the ailment doubles every five years in age groups older than 65.