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Chronic stress can damage your brain according to new research

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How many times have you heard "don't sweat the small stuff"? Now there's good reason.

Scientists have discovered that chronic stress can actually damage your brain.

Most people find ways to cope with the every day stresses that come our way. But chronic stress - the kind that keeps you up at night - is more dangerous.

"Stress affects everything you do, including your brain," said Dr. Douglas Scharre, the director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology at the OSU Wexner Medical Center.

He says constant stress can trigger long-term changes in your brain's function. "Long term you're actually changing receptors in the brain."

Scharre says stress can even cause part of your brain to shrink. "If it's a long-term stress, that might affect things like attention, focus, problem-solving, decision-making. A lot of these areas might be affected in people who have stress long term."

Scharre says scientists are just beginning to understand the role stress plays in these long-lasting changes. In the meantime, he says find ways to reduce your own stress levels.

"You'll have better brain health in the long term to avoid those chronic stressors," said Scharre.

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The doctor says the key to better brain health is stimulation- as long as it doesn't stress you. Do things like crossword puzzles, read, go to the mall. When it comes to your brain, it's use it or lose it.

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