Studies: Meditation Lower Inflammation, May Help Fight Alzheimer's
Recently some friends told me they were trying to participate in a 21-day meditation challenge put together by Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra. They’re finding it difficult to meditate, but are game to use this experience to try to start a practice.
And that practice may be really helpful in relation to Alzheimer’s disease. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation point to two studies that found that meditation may be indirectly useful in fighting Alzheimer’s disease.
Easing Stress of Caregivers
Forty-five men and women who were in a family caregiving situation for someone with dementia were recruited for this study. The caregivers were divided into two groups. One group learned a 123-iminute yoga practice called Kirtan Kriya. This practice, which involved a chanting meditation, was performed daily at the same time over an eight-week period. The other group of caregivers was asked to relax in a quiet place with their eyes closed for 12 minutes daily for eight weeks. This group listened to music on a relaxation CD.
Researchers took blood samples from each participant at the beginning of the study and after the eight-week period. They found that the group that did the chanting meditation and yoga practice shad reductions in level s of various proteins that have been linked to inflammation. This is important because inflammation has been found to be a contributor to numerous chronic health conditions including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
“This is encouraging news,” said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, who is a professor of psychiatry at UCLA and served as the senior author. “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 tool.”
Easing Seniors’ Loneliness and Isolation
A second study involved 40 adults who were between the ages of 55 an 85. These study participations were divided into two groups. One group was taught mindful meditation that promotes being mindful of the present moment. This type of Buddhist meditation also encourages letting go of troubling thoughts related to the past or the future. This group attended weekly two-hour meetings to learn more about mindfulness, awareness and breathing techniques. These participants also were asked to practice mindfulness meditation for half an hour each day and attend a single daylong retreat. The other group of participants did not participate in meditation.
The researchers found that meditation helped reduce the feelings of loneliness among the elders who participated in this activity. This is important because loneliness and isolation have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers also found that meditation reduce levels of proteins related to inflammation.
How to Meditate?
So how can you learn to meditate? Well, here’s a place to start – Winfrey’s and Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge. Participation is free.
“Everyone thinks that the purpose of meditation is to handle stress, to tune out, to get away from it all,” Chopra said. “While that's partially true, the real purpose of meditation is actually to tune in, not to get away from it all, but to get in touch with it all.”
He suggests using the guided meditations in any safe place where you will not be disturbed. Furthermore, he points to studies that show that meditation routines that are done in the morning last the longest. However, any time you can meditate is a good time. Chopra also suggests sitting up straight on the floor or on a chair to cultivate alertness, although lying down is OK, although you may feel sleepier.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (nd). How meditation may help against Alzheimer’s.
The Chopra Center. (2013). Here are some meditation tips from Deepak.
The Chopra Center. (2013). Oprah & Deepak 21-day meditation challenge: Perfect health.