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New Study: Chronic Stress Damages Brain, Causes Mental Illness

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A new scientific study is warning people that they need to find ways to reduce their chronic anxiety and stress. If people don’t find ways to balance out their lives and find peace then they are much more likely to develop mental illnesses such as depression and possibly even dementia.

The study from the Rotman Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences looked at the area of our brains that is most impacted by chronic stress, fear, and anxiety. They concluded that there is an “extensive overlap” in the brain’s neurocircuitry in all of these conditions. This may show us why issues such as chronic stress and developing disorders such as Alzheimers and depression are connected.

Experiencing some stress is normal, but if it starts becoming a regular thing then something need to change.

via doctorshealthpress.com

via doctorshealthpress.com

Unfortunately, experiencing stress is considered to be a normal thing when it is on occasion and doesn’t last very long. When you feel stressed about work, helping the planet, or worrying about a loved one these stresses can all be quite normal.

However, if these anxieties and stresses become a normal part of your daily life then that is considered chronic stress. Chronic stress can start to effect our jobs, relationships, spiritual growth, and brains.

Not only does stress hurt our brain but prolonged exposure can harm our metabolism, heart, and immune system. Long-term memory and spatial navigation rely on the brain’s hippocampus which will start to atrophy when we are stressed over a longer period of time.

“Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia,” said Dr. Linda Mah.

Dr. Mah who is an assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto concluded in her research that the effects of chronic stress are “not completely irreversible.” If we can get our stress under control then we can start to heal our brains and possibly reverse the damage.

“Looking to the future, we need to do more work to determine whether interventions, such as exercise, mindfulness training and cognitive behavioural therapy, can not only reduce stress but decrease the risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders,” said Dr. Mah

Mindfulness can help

Mindfulness and other stress-relieving practices such as yoga and exercise can help you rebalance your mind and better handle the waves of stress that come into your life. Mindfulness is a technique that has been proven to help people slow down, stay in the moment and reduce stress.

Mindfulness is a technique where one becomes fully immersed in the moment and experiences each sense in that moment. If there are birds chirping, a warm shining sun, or a green tree then all of these senses are fully enjoyed in that moment. Mindfulness also helps you become neutral and observe the present moment instead of reacting to it.

Many people practice this technique by observing the urge to scratch an itch instead of immediately scratching it. They learn to have a pause between stimulus and response in order to gain greater self-mastery over themselves and their life. Believe it or not, all of these subtle techniques can reduce stress and help heal your brain.

Mundane Tasks can become your ally

Did you know that doing mundane tasks such as washing the dishes can be relaxing? Florida State University has found that when you wash the dishes while using mindfulness techniques it will decrease stress while calming your mind.

via inhabitat.com

via inhabitat.com

The study looked at whether or not washing dishes could be used as a contemplative practice that helped to create a positive state of mind while focusing on the present moment.

“I’ve had an interest in mindfulness for many years, both as a contemplative practitioner and a researcher,” said doctoral candidate Adam Hanley, “I was particularly interested in how the mundane activities in life could be used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increase overall sense of well-being.”

The study was conducted with 51 students. The students were instructed to wash the dishes while focusing on the smell of the soap, feel of the dishes and the warmth of the water. The students reported that the activity reduces their nervousness by 27% while also increasing their levels of inspiration by 25%. 

The control group that washed the dishes without using any meditation or mindfulness technique found no added benefits from the activity. So the next time you are in a position of doing a ‘mundane task’ use mindfulness and make that task one that relieves stress and gives your brain a break.

Let us know in the comments below what you do to reduce stress.

Want to learn how to make mindfulness a part of your daily life? Check out our guide here!

Sources-

Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. “Chronic stress, anxiety can damage the brain, increase risk of major psychiatric disorders.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 January 2016. 

Florida State University. “Chore or stress reliever: Study suggests that washing dishes decreases stress.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 October 2015. 

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Health

Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People

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The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.

Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.

Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.

Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.

Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.

“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”

However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.

In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”

“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”

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Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say

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With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.

According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.

The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.

The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.

While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.

Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.

“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.

“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.

Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced

However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.

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Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact

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Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.

And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.

Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.

Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.

Death Toll, by Percent of Population

In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.

Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.

The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.

Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.

History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning

While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.

In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.

What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?

Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics

Republished from ZH with permission.

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