Cortisol is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it controls how you react in an emergency situation. It’s what makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Without it, there’d be no fight or flight reaction. And we’d be easy prey for just about any hungry hunter. On the other hand…
Having high levels of cortisol can cause some major health problems. Too much of it can raise blood sugar and pressure. It may also weaken your immune system and lower libido.1 We’ve told you before that high levels of it may interrupt sleep…even kill your testosterone.2 But a new study shows that the effects may be more than just physical.
Researchers at the University of Iowa have discovered that stress—and the cortisol it releases—may lead to poor memory as you age.3 They found that high levels of cortisol can cause synapse death in your brain. Synapses are neural connections that help us process information. They also help us store this information—not to mention recall it. But where this takes place makes it even more dangerous.
The pre-frontal cortex is the part of your brain that holds your short-term memory… Things like where you parked your car at the supermarket and where you left the television remote. It’s a dangerous combination: Destroying the synapses that help retain memory in the very place where short-term memory is stored. And it only gets worse as you get older.
The researchers estimate that the short-term memory loss from high cortisol starts at around age 65. In other words, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s the result of years of stress and cortisol damage. But some people are more at risk than others.
Suffering from depression may elevate your base levels of cortisol.4 But that’s on top of other sources of stress we deal with every day. Bills that need to be paid. Sitting in traffic. Deadlines at work. Even responsibilities that don’t make you angry or anxious—like caring for a sick loved one—can trigger cortisol release. You don’t want to eliminate this hormone. Remember, you’ll need it in an emergency. But there are ways to help keep it under control.
The best way to stop this hormone from damaging memory is to reduce the amount of stress in your life. But that’s not always something you can control. Instead, focus on the things you can control. If you’re a Health Watch reader, you may already be familiar with them.
Try doing some yoga or going for a walk when you get home from work. This will help release any tension built up during the day. You can also turn to natural supplements like ashwagandha. Taking it may help you slash cortisol levels by nearly 50%.5 But you shouldn’t just focus on lowering cortisol. You have to support cognitive function as well.
If you subscribe to Natural Health Dossier, you’ve already seen our NHD Brainpower Blueprint. It may be your secret for better mood, concentration, and memory. But there are other unique, natural ways to protect your brain and help preserve memory.
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