Stress Can Shrink and Age Your Brain

June 16th, 2011 by Dr. Keith Nemec

New research is providing insight into how stress can shrink your brain cells and prematurely age your immune system.

Essentially, the researchers say, stress can addle your mind and make you older. But there’s good news too: Exercise can make a huge difference. And, in the case of the brain at least, time might heal the wounds caused by stress.

“The brain is very resilient,” said Bruce McEwen, head of the neuroendocrinology laboratory at Rockefeller University in New York City. “Give it a chance and it will make every effort to repair itself.”

McEwen said his research has found even more signs that repeated stress actually causes neurons in the brain to shrink, at least in rats.

Earlier research showed that the neurons shrink in the hippocampus, and that seems to impair memory in response to stress, he said. More recent research suggests that the same thing happens in the brain region called the prefrontal cortex, which is crucial for decision-making and attention, he said.

When stressed, rats lose what McEwen calls “mental flexibility” — “the ability of the animal to use a familiar set of cues in a different way when the location of a food reward is shifted.”

What does this mean for humans? “Stress hormones act on the brain to remodel it and change it,” McEwen said. “The brain of a stressed animal or human being is a different brain. It has different capacities, and it may be more anxious and have less ability to pay attention or learn or remember.”

But there are potential fixes for those with mental stress, McEwen said. “A combination of psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy and pharmaceuticals could actually change the brain and restore it more or less to normal,” he said.

Exercise is another potential booster, he said, adding, “there’s growing evidence that exercise has very powerful effects.”

Outside the brain, stress can wreak havoc on the immune system, according to another study to be presented at the meeting.

Research suggests that stress can shorten the chunks of DNA at the tips of chromosomes in cells, making it harder for them to work properly, according to the researcher, Elissa Epel, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco. The bits of DNA “are like the plastic caps on the ends of our shoelaces. They prevent the ends from fraying,” she said.

What does this mean? “We examined healthy women and found that psychological stress was related to shortened” tips, she said. As a result, the immune system of the stressed-out women is apparently aging at a faster rate.

The treatments for this problem are what you might expect. “Everything we already know about fighting off chronic disease, like getting sufficient sleep, staying active throughout life, and having a healthy diet” may stave off premature aging of the immune system, too, Epel said.
-HealthDay News

Dr. Keith and Laurie Nemec’s comments on stress can shrink and age your brain.
This was a very interesting study with the researcher found was that stress actually causes neuron’s in the brain to shrink and very interesting what he also showed was stress hormones act on the brain to remodel it and change it. The stressed brain has different capacities and it may be more anxious and have less ability to pay attention, learn or remember. Also what interesting in this article which we disagree with is the head researcher said that the answer was a combination of psychotherapy cognitive behavior therapy and pharmaceuticals. We would alter this, the answer to balancing the brain, reducing the stress is to live a life following our heart not our mind. When we follow our heart, and when we do what God has put in our heart, we will walk in His love, His joy, His peace and His hope. This does not mean it is an easy life, because when we follow our heart we’re usually attacked by our old mind, our old will, our old emotions, the world system around us, and the people around us that are filled with the world system and the old mind, will and emotions themselves.

You always know when you are following your heart because there is great resistance from around you. People think you’re crazy, they think you’re foolish, they think you shouldn’t do what you are doing. But again this is the life of following the heart, it’s not an easy life, but it is an awesome life and you will feel God’s presence manifest powerfully in your life. So when we follow our heart, what overflows from the heart fills the mind. And this is the mind of Christ within us. This is the God mind that flows from the heart.

This is very different from the mind filled with the flesh, the world, religion, the time and space bound mind, the five sense bound mind, the ego filled mind, this is a very different mind. The mind that flows from the heart is one that flows from what God put in the heart. So, our recommendation would not be one of cognitive therapy, and psychotherapy, but one that is still, it sits at the feet of the Lord waiting, on Him speaking into their heart which will fill their mind, their will and their emotions, with the love, the joy and the peace and the hope of God. This brings balance into every part of your being. And then also to contradict the head researcher’s statement that says, pharmaceuticals would be used, we would disagree again with this and we would go back to what the father of medicine, Hippocrates, said, he said, “let your food be your medicine.” “Let your food be your medicine”. Or as Thomas Edison, the genius inventor said, “The Doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and the prevention of disease”.

This is what our prescription would be on that side, and basically to make it very simple as this article closed when they were talking about how the other research has shown that the DNA can be effected by stress and that the psychological stress is related to shortening tips of the DNA which would weaken the immune system and increase aging at a faster rate. What that researcher said was that everything we already know about fighting off chronic disease is what you should expect like getting sufficient sleep, staying active throughout life, and having a healthy diet may stave off premature aging of the immune system. This is a beautiful statement. It’s what we’ve said, and we keep saying. It’s the 7 Basic Steps to Total Health. This is the fountain of youth, this is what will transform us into God’s image and likeness. This is what will keep our body, mind and emotions healthy and healing, and keep us in balance in body, mind and spirit.

Remember stress is a big cause of all disease including cancer. So any disease prevention program, disease reversal program or alternative cancer treatment must address all stress both physical and mental/emotional.

One final comment, stress is not all bad. Other research has shown there’s two types of stress. Eustress, which is good stress and distress which is bad or negative stress. They found that in laboratory animals that were stressed but had a way out, so there was a stress but there was a way to overcome the stress, their immune systems were actually stronger than the animals with no stress at all, and greatly improved were the animals that were stressed with no way of escaping.

If we want to build stronger muscles, we need to stress them with some weight or some activity and that stress of the muscle causes the muscle fiber to grow larger and stronger. So, it’s not that we don’t want any stress, this life we live is filled with stress, but if we don’t live from our minds, but we live from our hearts, we’ll see that all these stresses are just tests that will transform us more into God’s image and likeness. If we do not try to get out of this stress, out of the pain, but we stay in the pain and stress and let God reveal His truth, His word and His power which is His spirit to empower us, to walk this life. This life of Total Health of body, mind and spirit.

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