Meditation has been linked to countless positive outcomes and a number of amazing health benefits. It has had profound effects on both body and mind and studies are beginning to scientifically back how beneficial meditation actually is for many ailments and grievances. In fact, it is a 5000 year approach to healthy aging.
Millions upon millions of people around the world suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease. It is the most common type of dementia and its symptoms are irreversible and life-changing. Finding ways in which to help combat the disease is at the forefront of the minds of scientists and doctors alike. Meditation has been coined as an effective tool for preventing the symptoms of the disease and to work towards pushing the likelihood of the debilitating illness.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative brain disease that is yet to have a specific cause. It mostly effects middle to older aged people and is depletes memory function, causes disorientation and impaired thinking, while also causing changes to the sufferer’s personality and mood. It is known as an incredibly heart-breaking condition for both the sufferer and the sufferer’s family.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease can often be confused as bad effects of the aging process, but this disease is nowhere near normal to the natural path of aging. There are also a high number of instances where people under the age of 65 suffer from the disease. This is known as early-onset Alzheimer’s and is particularly devastating for the person who is enduring the disease.
Alzheimer’s becomes gradually worse over time, with some people falling deeper into the disease’s symptoms more quickly than others. The most common indicator of Alzheimer’s is the inability to remember freshly learned information. This is because the disease begins to change the part of the brain that carries out the ability to learn.
The certified Alzheimer’s Association of America goes on the explain ‘…As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking’.
Microscopic changes to the brain are happening well before symptoms begin. This is why scientists and doctors are beginning to push for more earlier brain testing to be carried out to identify Alzheimer’s Disease, instead of waiting for symptoms to arise in order to identify the disease within a person. Most of the time, by the stage of symptoms, it is far to late to do anything about progression of the disease.
A new study has indicated that testing blood marker’s is a way to know if someone is suffering from Alzheimer’s. These blood markers, including telomere length, telomerase activity, and levels of certain beta-amyloid peptides, are able to determine if the brain is under cellular distress, cognitive decline or dementia. Another symptom of Alzheimer’s Disease is clumps of beta-amyloid protein showing up in the brain. Scientists believe that this will one day be a very real indicator of the disease, long before symptoms arise.
A new study has indicated that as little as 12 minutes of meditation or music therapy can deter or even prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. The study analysed 60 adults who were all suffering from subjective cognitive decline. The focus was on establishing new motor and sensory skills. Both skill sets have been linked to cognitive improvement and positive changes in the brain. The participants also had training in maintaining focus, attention and the ability to switch quickly and easily between different tasks. All of this training can lead to assisting cognitive function and flexibility, as well as memory strength.
The study looked at blood markers from before and after the 3 months of meditation practice, while also considering stress, sleeping patterns, cognitive function and mood. The study looked at changes to telomere length, telomerase activity and levels of beta-amyloid. “Telomeres” are protective caps that prevent the deterioration of chromosomes. Reduction of these caps are indications of cognitive decline and cell damage. The study found that telomerase activity increased with those patients who were meditating for 12 minutes a day, as did telomere length. The study also discovered increases in some cognitive and “psychosocial” measures. Stress, mood, sleep and quality of life also increased due to the meditation.
Meditation is now considered a therapeutic intervention technique for those who believe they may have the disease. An Author of the study said “In our study, we observed significant, sustained improvements in mood, stress, well-being, sleep, and quality of life … in the Kirtan Kriya meditation group… Positive changes in sleep and psychological status were related to gains in memory function, and, albeit more modestly, cognitive performance, suggesting a possible connection”.
While most of us are well aware of the benefits of meditation practices on short-term mental health, as well as general overall health, it is interesting to see how far reaching the benefits of meditation can stretch. A 12 minute a day practice is able to establish real, life-long changes to the brain. It is essentially the practice of retraining and maintaining this new brain function, meaning that it is more then likely going to continue to benefit you throughout your life.
If Alzheimer’s Disease runs in your family, or you are showing symptoms, speak with your Doctor about trying meditation as a preventative method in maintaining your mental health and preserving the grey-matter and blood markers of your brain. It is not only a short-term fix for emotional or psychological health problems, but can actually retrain your brain to be strong against the decline in cognitive abilities. Alzheimer’s Disease is an extremely debilitating illness and should be considered seriously as early as possible.