Sunday, March 12, 2023
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Stress puts cognitive abilities at risk with other diseases, study reveals

Increased stress level also causes disruption in mental capacity to remember, concentrate in daily life

Web Desk
A representational image shows a person sitting in a tense manner. — Unsplash/File
A representational image shows a person sitting in a tense manner. — Unsplash/File

People who face high levels of stress may experience a decline in their ability to learn and under things and witness a high risk of heart disease, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open. 

The increased stress level also causes disruption in people's mental capacity to remember and concentrate in their daily lives.

Stress also heavily affects humans' physical health, causing increased chances of stroke and a weak immune system among other things, leading people to adopt behaviours detrimental to their health such as the use of alcohol and smoking.

The study has also highlighted that stress-elevated people with levels up to 37% are more prone to experience poor cognition and poor lifestyle factors.

Co-author of the study, Dr Ambar Kulshreshtha, an associate professor of preventive medicine and epidemiology at Emory University was of the view that feelings of stress lead to long-term harmful effects on peoples' mental abilities.

This new research was purposed to understand the mental health disparities and was carried on the long-term data with an emphasis on Black people. During the study, the people were asked self-assessment questions regarding stress with a standardised assessment of their mental functions.

Dr Amy Arnsten, a professor of neuroscience at Yale School of Medicine, maintained that stress and cognitive abilities are tied in a "vicious cycle".

She opined that the stress signalling pathways when released, rapidly "damage higher cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex that includes things like working memory." Dr Arnsten researched how stress affects the brain but was not involved in the new study.

Lower cognition was found in both white and black people the same, however, the Black participants were reported to have higher stress levels, possibly due to racial discrimination and other social factors, the authors noted.

The previously conducted studies had found 50% of Black adults are more prone to suffer a stroke as compared to White adults and the rate increases two times in the older Black people exposing them to Alzheimer's or dementia.

The participants in the study ranged from age 45 to 98. The study also highlighted the link of consistency between stress and cognition. People are more likely to develop Alzheimer's owing to their family history.

In the study, several risk factors have been underlined which, if a person can abandon will lower their risk of suffering from dementia.

As stress is believed to be the one factor, the experts urged the monitoring of stress levels "to help minimise the risk of such diseases".

Dr Kulshreshtha also believed that since the cost of treating dementia is dear and not widely available, it is best to mitigate the chances and causes of it at the early stages. She said stress cannot be completely eradicated but can be managed effectively with available tools, and to some extent reduce it.