by Marshaneil Soumi D’ Rozario | 13th Feb, 2019
Stress is defined as the brain’s response to any demand. Not all stress is bad, and it is simply a response. How harmful it is, ultimately depends on its intensity, duration, and treatment. Regular exposure to stress not only impacts physical and mental health but also affects the brain. Stress takes a variety of forms. Some stress is the result of a single, short-term event and other stress is due to recurring conditions, such as managing a long-term illness or a demanding job. When recurring conditions cause stress that is both intense and sustained over a long period of time, it can be referred to as “chronic” or “toxic” stress. While all stress triggers physiological reactions, chronic stress is specifically problematic because of the significant harm it can do to the functioning of the body and the brain. Dr. J. Senthil Nathan, Consultant Neurology, Fortis Malar Hospital shares his views on how stress affects the physiology of the brain.
Stress increases the chemical release in the brain, leading to a decrease in the cognitive and executive functions of the brain. It also leads to the faster aging of the brain and early onset of dementia. Dr. J. Senthil Nathan is of the opinion that stress affects the blood vascular supply and especially the microvascular supply. This part of the brain is extremely intricate and connected with the memory and the executive function of the brain. The executive function is concerned with the power of judgment and the complicated function of the brain. These areas are most affected by chronic stress, which can reduce the working capacity as well as reduce the memory for a period of time, and may lead to an inability to carry out routine activities despite being physically fit. Long term stress can definitely lead to a stroke. More chronic diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s are also possible stress related risks.
Acute stress occurs immediately. For instance, dealing with a family bereavement or a disagreement with family members; coping with work-related problems or financial loss causes some stress for a short period of time, lasting less than a week. When the stress level persists for three to four weeks it results in a chronic stress condition. Both have effects on the brain, but acute stress affects the functions of the neurons. Chronic stress lasts for more than four months or so, and leads to structural damage to the neurons. Chronic stress, for a longer period of time, can lead to the release of free radical-induced oxidative injury both physically and structurally. When there is stress, free radicals are released, leading to the damage of the neurons or the brain cells. If persistent, it can lead to structural or anatomical damages to the neurons.
Consult a doctor in the following situations:
Inability to concentrate on your work.
Not being able to recollect small details
If someone is unable to recognize their friends or family for more than a week, they should consult a doctor immediately
Maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Physical exercise is a must. Thirty minutes of brisk walking, jogging or cycling is a must.
Diet should consist of all nutrients that are in the right quantities. Avoid junk food and maintain the timing of food intake.
Late night food consumption and skipping meals should be strictly prohibited.
Proper restriction of salt can lessen the implementation of damage.
Less usage of oily food and sugar can be of help.
Practicing yoga and meditation can lessen stress.
Taking regular breaks from work.
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