Chronic Stress Is Killer: Could It Cause Dementia?

First Posted: Jan 26, 2016 12:33 PM EST

Chronic stress isn't just taxing-it's extremely dangerous for your health. New findings published in the journal Current Opinion show that it can actually increase your risk of dementia.

During the study, researchers looked at neural circuits in the brain linked to both fear and anxiety. Findings showed that unlike short-term bouts of fear caused from our job or like insecurities-it's the long-term stress we really have to watch out for. The kind of stress that "wreaks havoc" on our body, including the immune, metabolic and cardiovascular systems, resulting in brain damage.

"Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia," said lead study author Dr. Linda Mah, who is affiliated with the University of Toronto, via The Independent.

Fortunately, according to Mah, this type of stress-induced brain damage, is "not completely irreversible."

There are ways you can keep your stress levels in check, including proper diet and exercise. And for some who may be dealing with mental health issues that increase stress levels, a healthy lifestyle-including mediation and certain types of cognitive behavioral therapies may be helpful.

Learning to manage your stress isn't impossible. Talk with your doctor about what's right for you.

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