If you had to guess the top two contributors of memory loss in individuals, what would you say? Poor diet? Lack of exercise? Age? The correct answer might surprise you – it’s high blood pressure and stress. In fact, there is a direct connection between high blood pressure and cognitive impairment, as well as high stress levels and memory loss. But, don’t worry! If you have high blood pressure or are often stressed, there are very simple ways to reduce the impact on your own memory loss.
Remember back to your college days – did you ever experience a time when you were cramming for an upcoming exam and you struggled to focus? You were most likely stressed, and the stress you felt was inhibiting your mind’s ability to create long-term memories.
When we’re stressed, we have significantly more difficulty converting short-term memories to long-term memories (in other words, being able to remember things). According to Very Well Mind, “Stress can inhibit the way we form and retrieve memories and can affect how our memory works.” Stress can also interfere with our mind’s ability to form memories when it occurs prior to or during the time in which the memory is being formed.
According to a UK study of nearly 20,000 people, participants with “high diastolic blood pressure are more likely to suffer from cognitive impairment” (Medical Daily). The level of cognitive impairment varies, ranging from an individual’s ability to remember something, to learn a new task, to focus, or to make a simple decision for everyday life. High blood pressure can affect small arteries in the brain, weakening them and resulting in brain damage. While more research is needed to fully confirm the cause and effect relationship between high blood pressure and cognitive impairment, the evidence supports a direct correlation.
What Can You Do About It?
“It’s possible that by preventing or treating high blood pressure, we could potentially prevent cognitive impairment, which can be a precursor to dementia,” said study author Dr. Georgios Tsivgoulis, MD (Medical Daily). Considering the connection between blood pressure issues and memory, it is critical to seek treatment for – or make changes to improve – high blood pressure through diet changes, increased exercise, pharmaceutical therapies, or some combination thereof.
To reduce the stress in your life, we recommend adding more self care to your daily routine. Activities, like going for a walk, doing yoga, enjoying a massage and even reading a book, can help improve stress levels.
One activity that can help reduce both – practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness training can significantly reduce two of the biggest risk factors associated with impaired memory: blood pressure and stress levels in hypertensive patients (Damian McNamara).
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