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 UCLA study of 45 caregivers whose family members have Alzheimer’s and dementia found that 12 minutes a day of Kirtan Kriya Meditation showed a reduction of stress levels. Six months later, the researchers discovered why – there was a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for an increase in the immune system’s inflammation response.
Reporting in the current online edition of the journal “Psychoneuroendocrinology,” Dr. Helen Lavretsky, senior author and a professor of psychiatry at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, and colleagues found that of the 45 caregivers in the study, 68 of their genes responded differently after the meditation, which resulted in reduced inflammation, ScienceDaily reported.
In the study, the participants were randomly placed into two groups. The meditation group was taught a 12-minute yogic practice that included Kirtan Kriya, which was performed every day at the same time for eight weeks. The other group was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed while listening to instrumental music on a relaxation CD for the same time period. Blood samples were taken at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the eight weeks, the report stated.
“The goal of the study was to determine if meditation might alter the activity of inflammatory and antiviral proteins that shape immune cell gene expression,” said Lavretsky. “Our analysis showed a reduced activity of those proteins linked directly to increased inflammation. This is encouraging news. Caregivers often don’t have the time, energy, or contacts that could bring them a little relief from the stress of taking care of a loved one with dementia, so practicing a brief form of yogic meditation, which is easy to learn, is a useful too.”
Lavretsky is a member of UCLA’s recently launched Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, which provides comprehensive, coordinated care as well as resources and support to patients and their caregivers. Lavretsky has incorporated yoga practice into the caregiver program, ScienceDaily reported.