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High, Continual Cortisol Levels Damage Your Memory as You Age
Cortisol often gets a bad reputation. It’s blamed for anything and everything that comes along with getting stressed out. That being said, it’s true in a way. When you’re stressed out non-stop, you continuously produce cortisol, which is not what it’s meant to be used for.
It’s meant to give you a boost for a short term stressful situation like the need to survive, but your body doesn’t know quite how to deal with longer term stressful situations. One thing that cortisol does in short bursts is ignore your need for long term memory in favor of short term memory.
In a brief situation, this is actually quite useful, but problems quickly arise when your body continues to produce it over a prolonged period of time. If you have high cortisol levels for awhile, you’re going to end up ignoring parts of your body that handle long term memory, leading them to become damaged from a lack of use.
Our memories rely on them being used repeatedly in order to remain functional and healthy. This is why things like flashcards help you study – because you’re having to constantly train that part of your brain to recall something over and over again.
With high cortisol levels, you’ll rarely be recalling anything from your long term memory, and with that, it’ll start to fall apart. By ignoring your long term memory, you’ll quickly start to forget things.
People you’ve met once or twice will start to become strangers, and you might find yourself reintroducing yourself to them at some point. You might forget how to do a certain activity that you used to enjoy, since you’ve fallen out of practice with it.
You will, however, be able to recall things from your recent memory quite well, though this may be to a fault. If you’re able to overanalyze everything that happened throughout your day, you might end up developing a form of anxiety.
If you’re constantly able to remember every little mistake, every slip up, and every moment that caused you to be anxious, you can develop some problems quickly. Memory loss is a very serious thing, and once you lose those memories, there’s no real way to get them back.
If you want to avoid being in an almost Alzheimer’s state early in life, then you need to get your stress and cortisol levels under control. Eliminating stress or managing it at healthy levels isn’t just about feeling good – it’s about protecting your quality of life and your physical and mental health.