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The Impact Of Stress On Your Brain Can Cause Alzheimer’s Disease

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The Impact Of Stress On Your Brain Can Cause Alzheimer’s Disease about undefined
Lately, we’ve sounded like a broken record when it comes to the link between physical and emotional stress and memory loss. For instance, we recently reported on an important study out of Australia that found high stress hormone levels linked to memory loss.1 Later, we investigated other research that found people with higher levels of perceived stress were 40 percent more likely to struggle with cognition than those who reported lower stress levels.2 And now researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have cast the net further to find out just how much of a risk is stress to your brain.3 The answer is alarming—especially if you’re a woman… You may be surprised to find out that women have a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease than men. But why? Scientists have long reasoned that the increase in Alzheimer’s risk boils down to a numbers game. In the U.S., women outlive men by five to six years, and advanced age is the most potent risk factor for this neurodegenerative disease. But is there more to it? Apparently so.

Your Stress Response Matters To Your Memory

“How women respond to stress versus how men respond to stress is an important area of research that has implications for not just Alzheimer’s disease but other conditions, too,” said co-author Carla M. Yuede, Ph.D., in a press release.4 She notes that in recent years, the National Institutes of Health has prioritized understanding gender differences in medicine. “Stress is one area in which you can clearly see a difference between males and females,” Dr. Yuede explains. The researchers measured the levels of amyloid beta – an essential Alzheimer’s protein – in the brains of male and female mice every hour for 22 hours. The levels of stress hormones found in their blood showed that both males and females found the experience equally stressful. However, in the females, levels of amyloid beta spiked within the first two hours. What’s more, its levels remained high throughout the monitoring period. Conversely, researchers observed little change in amyloid levels in the males. The study’s authors say the research points to the different ways male and female brains process stress.

Brain Cells Absorb Stress Hormones

Stress causes the release of a hormone known as corticotropin. Brain neurons from female rodents take up the stress hormone, ultimately increasing levels of amyloid beta in the brain. On the flip side, male rodents lack the ability to take up the stress hormone. Of course, we’re talking about rodents here and while there are amazing similarities between human and rodent biology, it’s not known if a study with human brains would mirror these same findings. However, study co-author John Cirrito, Ph.D., notes that a fundamental biological difference exists in how males and females respond to stress at the cellular level. And that’s true for both mice and people. “There are many other differences between men and women – in hormones, lifestyle, other diseases they have – that undoubtedly contribute in some way. But that stress is driving one aspect of this sex difference, I think, is very likely.”

Our Takeaway

There are drawbacks to an animal study of course, but these findings add to an ever-growing body of research proving how stress can wreak havoc on your body and mind, whether you’re male or female. More research is warranted, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for future updates. In the meantime, we advise readers to prioritize stress management. Meditation or prayer, exercise, spending time in nature, even simple breathing techniques are all valuable tools to help you fight stress. Best Regards, The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team
1 2 3 Edwards HM, Wallace CE, Gardiner WD, Doherty BM, Harrigan RT, Yuede KM, Yuede CM, Cirrito JR. Sex-dependent effects of acute stress on amyloid-β in male and female mice. Brain. May 2, 2023. DOI: 10.1093/brain/awad052 4 causes the levels of,risk of developing Alzheimer's disease

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