Are You Losing Your Memory?
Feel like your brain is a maze lately? Had trouble remembering phone numbers or finding your car keys? Do you have the feeling your memory is slipping?
If you are stressed, it probably IS slipping, and could slip even more. Here’s what you need to know if you feel like you are losing your mental edge:
Such little memory problems are often be early warning signs of something that is PROVEN to destroy both long-term and short-term memory – stress.
What You Need to Know
Here’s what you need to know about your memory and stress: Both acute and long-term chronic secretion of stress hormones has a very bad effect on your brain.
Many prominent brain researchers have shown that sustained stress damages the hippocampus, the part of your brain that is central to learning and memory. The culprits are the steroid hormones secreted by your adrenal glands during stress — cortisol.
During a perceived threat, your adrenal glands immediately release adrenalin. But if the threat is severe or persists after a couple of minutes, the adrenals then also release cortisol. Once in the brain, cortisol remains much longer than adrenalin, where it continues to affect your brain cells.
Cortisol Affects Your Memory
Have you ever forgotten something really important during a stressful situation? Cortisol also interferes with the function of your neurotransmitters — the chemicals brain cells use to communicate with each other. This makes it difficult to think, or to retrieve both short-term and long-term memories.
That’s why people get befuddled and confused in a severe crisis. Their mind goes blank because the neural communication lines are down.” They can’t remember where the fire exit is, for example. And this is also why you can’t find your car keys when you are in a hurry, or forget the numbers 911 in an emergency.
Why You Can’t Remember When Stressed
The stress hormones released then divert glucose, your brain’s primary food, to your major muscles. This is your body’s attempt to get your big muscles ready to either fight or run.
The problem is that the amount of glucose – hence energy – that reaches the brain’s hippocampus is then reduced. This creates an energy crisis in your brain’s hippocampus, the place where memories are created. This compromises your brain’s ability to create new memories, and to recall old ones.
That may be why some people can’t remember a very traumatic event, and why short-term memory is usually the first casualty of age-related memory loss resulting from a lifetime of stress.
The Degenerative Cascade
Normally, in response to stress, the brain’s hypothalamus secretes a hormone that causes the pituitary gland to secrete another hormone that causes the adrenals to secrete cortisol.
When the levels of cortisol rise to a certain level, several areas of the brain (especially the hippocampus) tell the hypothalamus to turn off the cortisol-producing mechanism. This is the proper feedback response.
But the hippocampus is easily damaged by the cortisol released by even mild long-term stress. In his book Brain Longevity, Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa describes how many older people have lost up to 25% of the cells in their hippocampus.
So memory-damaging cortisol continues to be secreted. This causes more damage to the hippocampus, and even more cortisol production. Thus a degenerative cascade”starts, and is very difficult to stop.
How to Protect Your Brain Power|
This is why it is so very important to have and use a daily stress reduction regime. Stress is not to be ignored or allowed to just rage on. The damage to your brain can be serious.