Study Finds Link Between Stress and Cognitive Decline

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that elevated stress levels may cause a decline in cognitive function, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, concentrate, and learn new things.

This article explains the study’s findings, the relationship between stress and cognitive function, and the recommendations of the researchers.

Impact on Cognitive Function

The study found that people with elevated stress levels had a higher likelihood of experiencing a decline in cognitive function, even after adjusting for physical risk factors like uncontrolled cardiovascular risk factors and poor lifestyle factors. This indicates that stress has a direct impact on an individual’s cognitive abilities.

The Vicious Cycle Leading to Cognitive Decline

The link between stress and cognitive decline is a “vicious cycle” that can result in long-term harm, according to Dr. Ambar Kulshreshtha, an associate professor of preventive medicine and epidemiology at Emory University and co-author of the study. It not only worsens an individual’s current cognition, but it can also have harmful effects in the long-term as well.

The Relationship With Brain Health

The study is part of a long-term, federally funded study that aimed to understand disparities in brain health. Researchers asked thousands of participants to assess their pressure levels and underwent a standardized assessment of cognitive function for more than a decade. Stress-signaling pathways can impair the higher cognitive functions of the prefrontal cortex, which includes things like working memory. If it is chronic, an individual can lose gray matter in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in inhibiting the brain response and providing insight.

What Does it Mean For Me?

For everyday people, we deal with stress on a daily basis. It may lead us to make bad decisions. Scientifically, this study explains why elevated stress levels can impair decision-making abilities. Therefore, this makes it a bad idea to make important decisions in such situations. Hence, it is important to recognize when stress levels are high and take steps to manage them before making any important decisions. We should stop and do brain excericises to relax when faced with such a situation. Additionally, there are many tools available to help individuals manage and reduce their stress. They include practicing relaxation techniques, exercising regularly, maintaining healthy eating habits, and seeking support from loved ones.

Long-Term Recommendations

The researchers recommended considering stress as one of the modifiable risk factors for dementia. Also, they called for regular screenings for stress in primary care settings, as well as targeted interventions, to help minimize the risk of cognitive decline. 


This article highlights the link between stress and cognitive decline. Additionally, it provides the recommendations of the researchers to address this issue. It emphasizes the importance of managing stress to protect brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.


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