Meditation and spiritual fitness are key components in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease according to a new article, “Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Prevention: Where the Evidence Stands,” published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The article reviews decades of research into the impact various meditation techniques have had on the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, including one evidence-based practice known as Kirtan Kriya (KK). This meditation technique has been successfully used to improve memory in studies of people with subjective cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment, according to article author Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., president and medical director of the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation and a clinical associate professor of integrative medicine at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
“We’ve been studying the impact of meditation on memory for more than 20 years, and are as encouraged as we’ve ever been on its powerful role in maximizing brain health,” said Khalsa. “Science is showing that meditation and spiritual fitness can be an important dimension in battling Alzheimer’s, and Kirtan Kriya is a safe, affordable, fast, and effective way to keep the brain spiritually fit.”
The principles and practices of this 12-minute meditation, with corresponding SPECT scans show how it successfully activates the posterior cingulate gyrus, an important region of the brain that helps regulate memory and emotional function. Other associated benefits of the practice include, a diminished loss of brain volume with age, significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms, and greater improvement of mental health, well-being and memory.
A Kundalini yoga Kirtan Kriya meditation program showed positive results in reducing depression and boosting mental health in caregivers taking care of family members with dementia, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
The study involved 49 caregivers ranging in age from 45 to 91 and participants were randomly assigned to two programs: Kundalini yoga Kirtan Kriya meditation or passive relaxation with instrumental music, the LA Times reported. The Kundalini program included breathing, chanting and repetitive finger movements, call mudras, and both programs were done for 12 minutes a day for eight weeks.
“We know that chronic stress places caregivers at a higher risk for developing depression,” said lead study author and professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, Dr. Helen Lavretsky, in a news release. “On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent. Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress.”
The Kundalini group reported 65 percent had a 50 percent improvement on a depression rating scale, and 52 percent showed a 50 percent improvement on a mental health scale, according to the LA Times report. Those who did passive relaxation showed a 31.2 percent improvement in depression and a 19 percent improvement for mental health.
But the bigger difference was seen on the cellular level, where the Kundalini group had a 43.3 percent improvement in telomerase activity, compared to the relaxation group with only a 3.7 percent boost. Telomeres, according to the study, are repetitions of DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome that protect it from damage that can lead to health problems. Higher telomerase activity can help improve the durability of immune cells, the report stated.