Your Brain on Stress; Is It Worth It?

You want to protect your brain . We send our kids onto the field with a helmet. The Tour de France riders wear helmets. So why do we destroy it from the inside out?

Clearly we value the role of our brain in our everyday lives.  This is the reasoning for the aforementioned protective headgear and all of the hubub focused on protecting out collective brains from outside-in trauma.  Anyone who has ever spent some time in a neurological rehab hospital will tell you it’s not a pretty sight when the brain gets damaged.

As we age and become more thoughtful of protecting our brains, we begin to try to see what we can do to lower our risk of stroke such as lowering our blood pressure and eating more dark chocolate.  A stroke, much like head trauma, is an instantaneous event.  These seem to scare us into some type of action, whether it is wearing that helmet, passing up on the sparring match with worked up, 225 pound, 5% body fat Golden Gloves boxer or getting to the ER when your blood pressure spikes to 200/130.

But what about the more insidious, but equally destructive, slower paced damage to your brain?  The type of damage that ends up in Parkinson’s or Alzheimers dementia.

I have gone over ways to protect your brain in a previous blog post that can be read here.

But have I mentioned how damaging stress is to the brain?  Only a few hundred times, so I figure a little reminder is not a bad idea.  This particular study looked at how stress changed inflammation in the brains of mice.  Here’s what they found:

  1. Increased activation of nuclear factor κB.
  2. Upregulation of the proinflammatory enzyme nitric oxide synthase.
  3. Increased activity of the enzyme cyclooxygenase 2 (you know–COX-2– the one Vioxx and Celebrex block).
  4. Increased cellular oxidative/nitrosative damage.

Now, either your eyes have glazed over or you’re salivating at the thought of all this detailed biochemistry.  Either way, you need to understand that saying that stress is bad for us is some tongue-in-cheek comment that we can all laugh about.

Rather, it begins to destroy your brain, biochemical piece by biochemical piece, from the inside out.  So you would never think about sending your child out onto that football field without a helmet, but are you teaching them stress management tools so that they can protect their brain from the inside out as well?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.