Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk with Meditation
The statistics are scary … 1 in 9 Americans over 65 has Alzheimer’s disease and it is now our third biggest killer. The numbers are grim but I did read a hopeful article in the April 2015 issue of Prevention Magazine, “How to Beat Alzheimer’s at Its Own Game.” The hopeful part is that a new science is emerging related to prevention.
Dr. Majid Fotuhi, a Harvard-trained neurologist, is helping people grow their brains and improve cognitive function through his NeurExpand Brain Center in Washington, D.C.
His research involves the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for short-term memory and consolidating it for longer-term storage. It is fundamental to strong memory and low risk of future dementia.
Our hippocampus shrinks as we age by about .5% a year, beginning around age 50. The smaller it becomes, the greater the risk of dementia. Scientists also know that excessive, ongoing stress shrinks our brains. See my blog The Fountain of Mental Youth for a more in depth discussion about the effects of stress on our brains and how the relatively young field of neuroplasticity is teaching us that we can reformat our brains.
Most of us have had those times when we simply couldn’t remember something that is normally second nature. It is a very uncomfortable feeling, especially for those of us over a certain age. Dr. Fotuhi doesn’t agree with the current science that there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s. His research is demonstrating that late-on-set Alzheimer’s can be postponed or prevented entirely by doing the “right” things to grow and strengthen your hippocampus.
The good news is that the hippocampus can shrink but it can also expand. Our brains seem to respond to healthy behaviors, like any muscle in our body, growing stronger as we exercise it. General research does prove that exercising, eating healthy and keeping your brain stimulated help lower dementia rates and grow the hippocampus. Much more research needs to be done before proving scientifically that increasing hippocampus size directly reduces Alzheimer’s risk but it looks very positive. Frankly, why wait?
A Brain Plan
Here are 4 steps you can take to begin increasing your hippocampus. The most research has been done on the first two.
- Exercise just keeps popping up as a ticket to healthy aging. They suggest 3 hours a week. Exercising increases a protein that is like fertilizer for your brain. I know from personal experience how brain clearing a walk can be.
- Meditation also keeps popping up as a way to preserve brain and general health. It induces the relaxation response, which means less cortisol (the harmful stress-related hormone) is released into your system. Cortisol is like poison for your brain.
- Omega-3’s have been shown to grow the hippocampus and the article suggested 1,500 mg daily.
- Memorize something on a regular basis to tone your hippocampus. Suggestions include learning a new skill, being social and/or learning a new language. What wasn’t recommended was some of the computer memory games, which don’t seem to do much.
Even just meditating a short time each day can do wonders for your brain and your attitude. For more information and for meditation practices, please see my blogs Rewire Your Brain and Prosper and 3 Easy Steps to Meditation.
To me, one of the most exciting aspects of the 4-step brain plan in general and meditation in particular is that it is in our control and it costs next to nothing. We have so much personal control over our health.
Enjoy and Breathe Easy
Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
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