Stress causes dementia to worsen

Forgetful through stress: can it lead to dementia?

The next online meeting in ten minutes, quick food for the children, then a doctor's appointment, sleepless nights due to the corona situation and fear of losing their job: Many people are currently under extreme stress - and become forgetful. Why actually?

Physical consequences of stress

While healthy stress, also known as eustress, releases happiness hormones and can even increase our performance in the short term, distress, i.e. the unhealthy form, has a long-term negative effect on health. Negative stress has a wide range of effects on the body - and on the ability to think.

Under stress, the muscles tense, breathing and pulse accelerate, blood sugar and blood pressure rise. If there are no relaxation phases, the body cannot break down the stress hormones and remains permanently in this alarm state.

This has consequences: "With excessive, long-term stress, the body and memory suffer considerably. Among other things, the immune system is weakened. Symptoms such as stomach pain and diarrhea up to diabetes and severe cardiovascular diseases are threatened," says Dr. Andreas Hagemann, Medical Director of the Röher Park Clinic for Psychosomatics in Eschweiler near Aachen.

Memory disorders: why does stress make you forgetful?

The brain also experiences long-term stress. The memory fades, we become forgetful. The stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which are released in stressful situations, are to blame. The body switches to survival. Escape or fight, that's what matters now. The mind is of secondary importance.

As the specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy explains, excessive stress leads, on the one hand, to overstimulation of the amygdala, where our "fear center" is located. Fear, helplessness, anxiety and nervousness are therefore consequences of negative stress. On the other hand, stress affects cell production in the hippocampus, a brain region that is particularly important for our memory.

According to the expert, chronic stress can deactivate and even shrink parts of the nerve cells in the hippocampus. The result: "Memory performance and the ability to concentrate are reduced under constant stress," says Hagemann. "In addition, the susceptibility to dementia processes and phobias increases. Even depressive illnesses are a possible consequence of the biochemical changes in the brain."

Causes: The brain doesn't like multitasking

Multitasking, which is increasingly practiced in times of stress, is also a burden for the brain and can lead to memory disorders. The brain reaches its limits, especially in activities that place higher demands on our mental abilities. "If I check e-mails while I'm on the phone at the same time, this means that the brain is overwhelmed. This is because it is unable to concentrate on two complex activities at the same time. The performance is not increased, but rather reduced. Ultimately, nothing works properly." says the specialist. It is better to concentrate on one thing one after the other than to jump back and forth between two complex tasks.

Lack of sleep reduces memory performance

A lack of sleep is also a common problem in stressful phases and also worsens the ability to think. While good sleep strengthens the nervous system, lack of sleep encourages the breakdown of nerve cells and reduces the ability to think logically. Too few deep sleep phases lead to a decrease in memory performance and the ability to remember.

"If there is an extreme lack of sleep, even hallucinations and epileptic seizures are possible. In addition, little sleep prevents damaged DNA from being regenerated. Stress increases the risk of diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia," warns Hagemann. "Studies have shown that people with dementia have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than healthy people."

Forgetfulness - when to see a doctor?

Occasional forgetfulness is nothing to worry about. If the memory interruptions increase, however, one should pay attention, observe this development and, if necessary, seek the advice of a doctor. Forgetfulness cannot just be the result of stress or dementia. Forgetfulness can also indicate depression. "With depression, limitations in cognitive abilities such as concentration problems or forgetfulness are not uncommon," says Hagemann.

Against forgetfulness during stress: The brain needs rest

So that the brain can call up its power and the memory works, rest periods are of great importance. The brain needs time out when it doesn't have to perform. In addition, stress hormones can be broken down during breaks - which also supports the mental performance. A relaxing walk is ideal. This can be just as beneficial during the lunch break as it is after work.

Relaxation methods such as progressive muscle relaxation or so-called imaginative techniques such as dream travel as well as yoga and meditation also bring more calm into life. Also switch off your smartphone more often. It's good not to be available. "In acutely stressful situations, it is also helpful to talk to good friends or family about the grief", advises Hagemann. "Or you try breathing exercises."

Use the 4-7-8 method to reduce stress and strengthen the brain

The expert recommends the "4-7-8 method" to reduce stress in an acute stressful situation. Place the tip of your tongue behind your upper incisors and inhale through your nose (count to four). Then hold your breath (counting to seven). Then breathe out through your mouth (count to eight). Repeat the whole thing three times.

Say "no" often

"It is also good if you pay more attention to your own needs, often say 'no' and sometimes 'let five be straight' instead of always wanting to do everything 150 percent," advises Hagemann. Because: In many cases, perfectionists in particular can find it difficult to shut down.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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  • Subjects:
  • Health,
  • Diseases,
  • Symptoms,
  • Stress,
  • Brain,
  • Memory,
  • Forgetfulness,
  • Stress hormones,
  • Depression,
  • Alzheimer,
  • dementia