Meditation is more than just a trend. Previous studies have found that the ancient practice offers numerous health benefits, including lowering levels of stress, managing anxiety and depression, reducing inflammation, and providing relief from pain. Meditation is already being further studied and recommended for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially among veterans.
It is a relatively simple activity. Participants are asked to sit down or lie down in a quiet room for a few minutes to empty the mind and pay close attention to what is happening in the present. It may involve saying a mantra, or a guide may lead you throughout the activity. There is also silent meditation which involves sitting in silence or doing movements and poses. Whichever method you choose, the goal is to force the mind to pay attention to the present and become mindful throughout your life.
There is no age requirement to start practicing meditation. Everyone can reap benefits from the activity. However, seniors who are experiencing cognitive decline due to age or dementia could see their conditions improve through the regular practice of meditation.
Meditation’s Impact on the Mind
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that, to this day, has no cure. There is a medication that can decrease symptoms of the disease. Still, plenty of studies need to be done to stop the condition from further progressing and wiping away people’s cognitive abilities, including their memories.
Scientists have been testing strategies that show promise to improve Alzheimer’s, and they may have found a potentially effective treatment that can slow the progression of the disease and may even restore memory loss.
The study involved 15 patients between the ages of 52 and 77, all of whom had memory problems. The researchers took brain images and measured the blood flow of each participant. The participants also had to take a cognitive test at the beginning of the study. Every day for eight weeks, the participants did meditation.
Another group of five patients, all of whom also had memory loss, also went through imaging tests and blood flow measurements. However, instead of meditation, they listened to two Mozart violin concertos every day for eight weeks.
After eight weeks, all participants had to retake the cognitive test and do the brain scans. The researchers found that those who did meditation for eight weeks had an increased cerebral blood flow in the front lobe and parietal lobes. These parts of the brain are associated with memory. Meanwhile, the music group also showed increased blood flow in different areas of the brain, but not as significant as the meditation group.
The participants that did meditation also showed better performance during tests that measured cognition compared to the group that listened to Mozart.
Meditation is already known to improve memory. One reason people become forgetful is that they are not paying attention to their tasks or surroundings. However, meditation can improve cognitive function in more ways.
Workout for the Brain
The researchers explained that meditation is similar to lifting weights at the gym. After eight weeks of regular practice, you will come out stronger than ever.
Meditation has a direct influence on the brain itself. A previous study found that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation can increase the thickness of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is responsible for memory and learning. On the other hand, it has been shown to decrease the brain cell volume in the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with stress, anxiety, and fear.
In another study, researchers discovered that people who have been practicing meditation for an average of 20 years had more volume of gray matter throughout the brain, not just in certain areas as initially theorized. While older people who meditated still had volume loss compared to young people, it was not as significant as those in seniors who do not meditate.
Seniors with Alzheimer’s will benefit from living in an elderly community that encourages wellness, including programs that teach meditation. Ask an advisor for senior living for recommendations.
Unfortunately, the researchers agreed that if the disease has progressed into its later stages, meditation is unlikely to help. It can only improve mild memory problems and slow brain degradation. Once memory has become too impaired, the person may no longer meditate. Experts warn that it is also a small study. More research is needed to be done to conclude that meditation can improve Alzheimer’s.
Meditation is an ancient practice that has, through studies, been proven to offer many health benefits. Scientists have been investigating the potential of meditation as a treatment for diseases, including Alzheimer’s. You can choose to see this as an option, but don’t forget to know the others.