Researchers have suggested that overwhelming, daily stress may increase the chances of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
500 individuals aged 70 or over were followed for a 3.5 years, and tested every so often for their levels of stress. 71 participants were diagnosed during this time with mild cognitive impairment.
Those with the highest levels of stress were found to be 2.5 times more likely to develop this cognitive impairment, which is a significant indicator that the person will develop Alzheimer’s.
The link between mental health and physiological diseases is strengthening, and it is becoming a more and more commonly held opinion that they are one and the same.
“When stressful events happen and people perceive them to be stressful, there’s a whole series of physiological changes that take place. Blood pressure goes up, pulse goes up, the stress hormone cortisol is secreted and, over time, chronic stress can produce wear and tear on the body and wear and tear on the brain and lead to long-term health consequences,” said psychiatrist Richard Lipton.
This is where stress management practices like mindfulness meditation can come into play and help protect our health. “one person gets a speeding ticket and they think ‘this is horrible. My insurance premiums are going to go up and I’m going to get a hundred dollar fine, this is a disaster for me.’ And another person thinks, ‘Hmm, I shouldn’t have been speeding. I’m going to be more careful in future,'” Lipton explained.
This example takes a normal, low level stressing event, and shows a healthy and an unhealthy way in which people can deal with it mentally.
The first person takes an unhealthy approach to the issue, stressing themselves out, and making a bigger deal of the event that the second person and is more likely to be very stressed out, and therefore, more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to this study.
This is where mindfulness can help manage stress, and teach us to objectively observe our thoughts, having taken a step back, rather than let them overwhelm us.