A new environment: introduction to hormesis for brain health


After driving many miles through America and paying high gas prices I arrived at my new location. An entire new environment for me. A hotter, drier climate is the opposite of my previous location. Additionally, now I live at roughly a mile (1610 meters) above sea level, which is fairly high when you compare it to living at sea level all your life. It will be interesting to see how my running adjusts to this new elevation. I am starting out with nice slow runs.

Interestingly, there is a theory that people living at high altitudes (but not too high) live longer – hence better brain and body health. The reason behind this revolves around the concept of hormesis. Hormesis as defined by wiki; “(from Greek hormæin, meaning “to excite”) is the term for generally-favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors. A pollutant or toxin showing hormesis thus has the opposite effect in small doses than in large doses.”

Living at high altitude causes an increased exposure to radiation. Now of course high level of radiation is deadly, but low doses of radiation actually extends lifespan in many different organisms.

So the general take home message is various forms of stress – in small doses, strengthen the biological system to enhance survival in the future. A new environment is a form of stress, so is exercise, learning something new, and a whole bunch of other things in life in which we have control over. Now too much uncontrolled stress is bad for you, as is well documented in life and the media. However, do not think that all stress is bad, as I briefly outlined above. We need to be able to differentiate between small ‘good stress’ (hormesis) and chronic uncontrolled stress which is detrimental to your health.

I have mentioned how low level of appropriate stress can increase lifespan, well it also increase brain health, as you would have guessed. What is usually good for the body is also good for the brain.

What is going to be your new ‘good stress’ today?