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Stress may contribute to higher risk of dementia - study

We all have stress, but new research shows it could actually contribute to a higher risk of dementia later in life.
October 16, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
We all have stress, but new research shows it may be worse for you than you think. The stress you're experiencing now could affect you later.

As the director of medical staff services at a busy San Pedro hospital, Denise Eastburn is always juggling.

"I'm always on call, 24 hours a day," said Eastburn.

This 44-year-old mother of two says balancing home and work is always a struggle. Like many people her age, Eastburn cares for elderly parents and her family. She recently lost a beloved niece to cancer.

It's a lot of stress to handle -- stress that a recent study found could actually contribute to a higher risk of dementia.

British researchers followed 800 women and found that events, such as divorce, job loss or sickness, led to physiological changes in the brain.

"The research isn't terribly kind of surprising," said stress management expert Andy Puddicombe.

Puddicombe says his own battle with cancer convinced him of the long-term health benefits of being mindful.

"In the same way that we think of training the body, you know, we go to the gym or we go for a walk, we need to think about how we can train our mind. And the easiest way of doing that is to learn a really basic meditation," said Puddicombe.

Puddicombe cofounded Headspace, a website and app that helps people find ways to fit in meditation into their day. But he calls it a website for people who don't like traditional meditation. He says give it 10 minutes a day, and in 10 days, you'll be surprised at how much better you feel. Meditation is like exercise for the brain.

"If we can train the mind to make it really kind of robust and strong in a healthy and happy way, then that's going to see us well into our later years," said Puddicombe.

Eastburn says she's open to meditation, but for now, she relieves stress by taking part in a challenging boot camp class.

"You feel better; you sleep better at night, but also just have that time where I can just worry about me in that hour and nothing else around me," said Eastburn.

Headspace offers a free trial for 10 days. After that, the cost is between $5 and $15, depending on how long you sign up.


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