When I was 17 years old, my father passed away from Alzheimer’s disease. At that time, Alzheimer’s disease was still unknown or misunderstood by most. Now over 20 years later, it’s rare to find someone who hasn’t been personally touched by Alzheimer’s disease and it’s heart-wrenching effects. However, simultaneously we have learned a lot about this disease and although a cure does not yet exist, we are starting to discover many potential preventative measures centered on brain health and longevity. Two practices in particular that have been getting attention for contributing to a healthy mind are yoga and meditation.
Most of the time, disease creeps up on us when we least expect it. Up until that moment, we may have ignored our health and wellbeing, believing that we were invisible and that we could somehow avoid disease with very little effort. This is certainly not the case for everyone, but I believe that a society that was once primarily focused on relieving symptoms and curing disease has turned a corner to a more preventive approach based on good health practices.
Whether you or your loved one has already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there are many things you can do to prevent, slow and even potentially, reverse, the memory loss and brain degeneration associated with this form of dementia as well as others. A healthy diet primarily centered on plant foods (whole fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, beans, sea vegetables, and live “superfood” supplements) is a great start as well as regular physical and mental exercise to stimulate the brain. Mental exercises such as crossword puzzles, games, reading, etc. have all been associated with maintaining good memory function and brain health.
In recent years some great research has been conducted relating to meditation and the prevention and/or delay of Alzheimer’s progression. Of particular interest is the work done by Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., founder of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation in Tucson, AZ. He and his foundation are behind the creation of a Kundalini yoga technique called Kirtan Kryiya, a meditation practice that involves repeating a mantra while employing simple hand techniques for 12 minutes each day. In 2010, a research study was conducted on 15 participants experiencing memory problems, between the ages of 52 and 77. Cognitive tests and brain images were collected and the results showed that after 8 weeks of repeating this daily practice, participants had increased cerebral blood flow in their frontal and parietal lobes as well as improved their performance on cognitive tests related to general memory, attention and cognition. Dharma Singh Khalsa’s work has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and recognized by the Alzheimer’s Association, bringing further awareness to the effectiveness of alternative health practices in improving brain health.