A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience reveals that having high levels of cortisol can impact short-term memory loss as we age.
Short-term increases in cortisol are essential for survival. However, abnormal, prolonged spikes in cortisol that occur with long-term stress can lead to many health issues such as digestion problems, anxiety, weight gain and high blood pressure.
In this study, researchers linked elevated cortisol levels to the gradual loss of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that houses short-term memory. Synapses are the connections that help us process, store and recall information. As we get older, repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol can cause them to shrink and disappear.
Previous studies have demonstrated that cortisol produces similar effects in other regions of the aging brain; this, however, was the first study to examine its impact on the prefrontal cortex. This raises the possibility that short-memory decline in aging adults may be slowed or prevented by alternative approaches that decrease levels of cortisol. That could mean treating people who have naturally high levels of cortisol such as those who are depressed or those who experience repeated, long-term stress due to traumatic life events such as the death of a loved one.
Research shows that phosphatidylserine (PS) helps reduce cortisol levels when the body is under stress. Also, PS has been shown to improve age-related memory impairment which may occur by lowering cortisol levels. There are no foods rich in phosphatidylserine, so supplementation is the only way to increase the levels of this brain-supportive nutrient. The body can make PS, but in far from optimal quantities, and even less as we age.
In addition, adaptogenic and adrenal tonic herbs help normalize cortisol levels and support optimal adrenal gland health.