Beat the Brain Buster: Keep Your Memories Safe by Taming Stress

Forgetting where you left your keys or struggling to remember someone’s name might be a common occurrence as you age. However, researchers at the University of Iowa have discovered a way to reduce the risk of more severe memory problems, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. The secret lies in controlling your stress levels, which will, in turn, help regulate the hormone corticosterone. Elevated corticosterone levels, caused due to stress, can impair memory and put you at risk of serious cognitive degradation.

The Corticosterone and Memory Connection

Lab tests have demonstrated that as people age, an increase in stress hormone levels can lead to a reduction in connections between prefrontal cortex cells in the brain responsible for memory processing. In essence, higher levels of corticosterone can make crucial brain areas age faster than they ordinarily might.

“Older animals with higher levels of stress hormones in their blood have ‘older’ frontal cortexes than animals with less stress hormones,” explains Stanford University professor Robert Sapolsky, a renowned stress expert who was not part of the study. “Thus, stress may act as a pacemaker of aging in this key brain region.”

While high stress hormone levels are not the sole cause of cognitive decline during the aging process, they undoubtedly play a significant role. “This study suggests that the effects of these stress hormones on the brain may be much more widespread than we previously thought,” said researcher Jason Radley.

Techniques to Control Stress

Now that we understand the detrimental effect stress has on our memory and cognitive health, finding ways to control stress becomes imperative. Below are some proven stress-relief techniques that can help protect your brain.


Regular physical activity has been proven to reduce stress levels. Exercise increases the production of endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. Additionally, regular exercise can improve sleep quality, increase relaxation, and boost your overall sense of well-being.

Whether you prefer walking, running, swimming, or practicing yoga, it’s important to find an activity that you enjoy and can commit to in the long term.


Meditation is a powerful mindfulness practice that can help train your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts, resulting in lower overall levels of stress. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that participants who practiced mindful meditation reported significant improvements in their mental well-being.

There are many styles of meditation to choose from, so be sure to find one that works for you.

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing exercises can help activate your body’s natural relaxation response, which counteracts the physical symptoms of stress.

One popular method is diaphragmatic breathing, where you breathe in deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to inflate as you fill your lungs with air. Then, exhale through your mouth, completely emptying your lungs. Practicing deep breathing exercises a few minutes each day, or whenever you feel stressed, can help minimize the harmful effects stress has on your body and mind.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Research has shown that consuming foods high in antioxidants, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids can help decrease the negative effects of stress on the brain. A balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is essential for managing stress and ensuring optimal brain health.

Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid excessive consumption of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, which can exacerbate stress levels and harm your overall health.

Develop Positive Relationships

Surrounding yourself with family and friends who can provide support during difficult times is indispensable for maintaining your mental well-being. Healthy relationships and social connectedness can improve your mood, promote a sense of belonging, and act as a buffer against the harmful effects of stress.

The Importance of Taking Charge

As you age, it’s crucial to take control over the factors that you can influence, such as stress. By incorporating the above-mentioned strategies into your daily routine, you can minimize the harmful effects of stress on your memory and cognitive health. Remember, a little forgetfulness is normal as you age, but taking steps to control your stress levels will help protect your brain from more severe cognitive decline.