What reduces memory and increases dementia, and what can you do about it?

Research has shown that the stress hormone cortisol reduces a person’s ability to retrieve information and memory.

Even worse, this same stress hormone is linked to progressive shrinking of the hippocampus – an important memory center in the temporal region.

High levels of stress also promote depression, which severely impairs memory and increases the risk for dementia.

To reduce stress, try relaxation exercises.

Sit quietly and breathe deeply and slowly. Relax each part of your body, starting with the top of your head and finishing with your toes.

Look for humor in tense situations and talk about your feelings with family members, friends or a therapist, if necessary.

Try reducing stress and anxiety with fresh, natural scents. In general they induce a calming state.

In one recent study, volunteers became extremely anxious when they were confined in coffin-like tubes, but then calmed down when the tubes were infused with the smells of green apple and cucumber.

These odors seem to have an impact on the limbic systems, the emotional center of the brain.

If you anticipate a situation where you will feel anxious, try a shampoo with green-apple flavored shampoo.

Here are a few tips that will lower stress in 5 minutes or less. This could help reduce memory loss and prevent dementia:

1. Move around.

2. Walk rapidly around your workplace.

3. Take a quick walk around the block.

4. Climb rapidly up and down a flight of stairs to really get the heart pumping.

5. Do 15 jumping jacks in place.

6. Stretch while seated at your desk. Link your fingers under a knee and draw it to your chest. Repeat with your other knee. This stretches the legs and the lower back.

7. Stretch your arms above your head, palms up and fingers linked. Dangle hands at your sides, then raise right shoulder to right ear, keeping the head vertical. Repeat this with the left shoulder. Finally, flex and bend back the fingers of each hand. Hand stretches are especially important if you use a computer for long periods.

8. Take 10 long deep breaths. Your belly should expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale.

9. Massage your eyes by placing your palms over them and apply gentle pressure while spiraling your palms. Try the same technique for your ears. Periodically, try to block out all sight and sound for just a second or two. Researchers report that this can be a refreshing experience from a psychological standpoint.

10. Experiment with aromatherapy. A drop of citrus essential oil like lemon-lime or orange is refreshing for your office or home and is not overbearing.

11. Early morning sleep is really the most restful sleep you can get. Men sent to bed at 2:15 a.m. and awakened at 6:15 a.m. slept more soundly than ones sent to bed at 10:30 and awakened at 2:30 a.m.

So, if you are stressed and can get only four hours of sleep, stay up as late as possible to get the most benefit from your limited sleep. This does not replace a full night’s sleep. Resume normal sleep pattern as quickly as possible.


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