Mindfulness meditation may not only help with cognitive decline, but it may also physically change the brain and make it stronger for seniors.
By Dawn Flemming
There are lots of fads that come and go. Most of them have little basis for their overall usefulness. It is easy to think that the current emphasis on mindfulness meditation is just one of those fads or that it’s just some Eastern exotic practice that doesn’t have much value.
At this point when we are nearing the end of 2019, there is simply too much research to support the health benefits of mindfulness meditation. Just like exercise became a proven health practice to improve people’s health, mindfulness practices are also on that scale.
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to be very effective in helping with mental and emotional disorders like depression and anxiety. However, more and more research is now showing that mindfulness practices may also play an important role in delaying or even preventing dementia, Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive decline.
A 2018 study concluded the following
The interventions fell into the following three categories: mindfulness, most commonly mindfulness-based stress reduction (six studies); Kirtan Kriya meditation (three studies); and mindfulness-based Alzheimer's stimulation (one study). Three of these studies were randomised controlled trials. All studies reported significant findings or trends towards significance in a broad range of measures, including a reduction of cognitive decline, reduction in perceived stress, increase in quality of life, as well as increases in functional connectivity, percent volume brain change and cerebral blood flow in areas of the cortex.
Not only did meditation help with reduction in cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s, but in doing so, it physically changed the brain and strengthened it!
Another 2018 study that incorporated patients and caregivers in a 8-week program showed that not only was mindfulness meditation helpful with various forms of dementia, but it also significantly helped make the jobs of caregivers easier as well as improving their own cognitive and emotional wellbeing.
If you are interested in mindfulness practices, a good place to start can be any app that you can download on your phone. Many of them are free or come at a low price. Our recommendation would be Headspace as it is easy and fun to follow.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.