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Improve Your Memory By Reducing Stress

Tune in to the news, and you can’t help but notice that we live in a time of conflict and climate change and economic insecurity. The reported threats to our health and well-being seem ceaseless. And yet there’s good reason not to let yourself be too riled by the news: All that negative input takes a toll on the brain. A low-level nagging sense of fear can lead to a lack of concentration, forgetfulness, and even memory loss. We joke about these symptoms, calling them “mommy brain” or “senior moments,” but in the worst-case scenario, the stresses underlying these mild forms of cognitive decline can lead to Alzheimer’s disease. “We know that stress damages the brain,” says Maria Carrillo, the medical and scientific relations director for the Alzheimer’s Association. “Along with the aging of the population and lifestyle risk factors, it’s a big factor in the looming epidemic we’re facing.” She cites a study the association released this year, which estimates that someone develops Alzheimer’s in this country every 71 seconds. The study projects that as many as 10 million baby boomers will be diagnosed with the disease in the coming years. “It’s shocking,” says Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, the author of Brain Longevity and the president and medical director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. “About 15 years ago, there were 4 million people with Alzheimer’s; today that number is 5.2 million, and we’re going to see it skyrocket. I think stress and lifestyle are leading causes. Right now in America we’re being told to be afraid, be very afraid. There’s so much stress and pressure in our society, it’s creating an epidemic of memory loss.” Are you at risk? If so, don’t fret. There’s good news, too: Scientists have come a long way in understanding what works to improve brain function. And some of them say that yoga—4with its unique combination of exercise, meditation, relaxation, and focus—might be a great antidote to what’s weighing on your mind.

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