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Experts: A healthy brain doesn't need too much stress

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(CNN) -- Stress is a normal part of taking a test or dealing with traffic on your way to work. But too much stress, doctors say, can have detrimental effects on your health and wreak havoc with normal brain function.

The problem starts with a perceived or actual threat, which then signals the body to release chemicals into the blood stream to prepare for a survival instinct called "fight or flight," according to Dr. Douglas Bremner, of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

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In the brain, these chemicals take the form of stress hormones, which studies have shown can shrink the area of the brain called the hippocampus. Chronic stress, Bremner said, can also harm mental concentration and reduce a person's learning ability.

Stress hormones can "make you think faster and do better," Bremner told CNN. "But if you release too much you can't think at all."

Learning to turn stress off is the key to maintaining healthy brain function, experts said, and can protect a person's quality of life.



RELATED STORIES:
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RELATED SITES:
American Institute of Stress
The Web's Stress Management & Emotional Wellness Page
Stress, Inc.: The Commerce of Coping


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