Yoga and meditation could reduce dementia risk

A new study led by researchers and senior author Dr. Helen Lavretsky at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) has found that yoga and meditation may reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment. These findings have since been published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is considered to be a precursor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It’s characterised by changes in cognitive function, including memory and thinking problems. Though initially the changes aren’t severe enough to interfere with sufferer’s independence, symptoms can worsen over time, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Currently there are no approved medications to treat MCI, experts recommend that older adults with the condition engage in mentally stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles. It is thought that these will help reduce their risk of dementia.

However, Dr Lavretsky and colleagues believe practicing yoga and meditation may be just as effective for protecting cognitive function. The study involved 25 participants aged 55 and over.

For 12 weeks, 14 participants engaged in a one hour yoga class once a week and practiced meditation for 20 minutes each day. The remaining 11 participants undertook an hour of memory enhancement training once a week for 12 weeks, as well as completing memory exercises for 20 minutes each day.

At the beginning and end of the 12 week period, participants were required to complete memory tests and undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this allowed the researchers to assess their cognitive function and brain activity.

The results found that although both groups’ verbal memory skills had improved, the group who practiced yoga and mediation also had more of an improvement in their visual-spatial memory skills. Additionally, the yoga, meditation group fared better when it came to levels of anxiety, depression, coping skills and stress resilience.

Source: Medical News Today

More information regarding exercise testing and programming for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can be found in ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons With Chronic Diseases and Disabilities

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