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Can You Alter the Course of Alzheimer’s with Meditation? Learn the Many Amazing Benefits of Meditating!

A senior man meditating.Eighty-five-year-old Wayne wakes up every morning to meditate near a wooded trail with a beautiful view of a lake. Friends and neighbors often wonder how he handles stress so well and how he is still so sharp-minded. Wayne attributes much of his calm demeanor and clear mindedness to his meditation routine, which he has made an important part of his daily life.

Study Shows the Effects of Meditation on Staving Off Dementia

Dr. Kim Innes, a professor at West Virginia University School of Public Health, led a study that was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study found that a short practice of meditation each day can help alleviate some of the signs and symptoms that often precede dementia.

To conduct the research, Dr. Innes’ team assessed a group of 60 older adults experiencing cognitive decline who practiced either 12 minutes per day of music listening or simple yoga meditation for 3 months. The researchers assessed blood markers from samples drawn at the beginning and end of the 3 months of practice. At these times, and then after another 3 months, the researchers also assessed memory, cognitive function, quality of life, sleep, stress, and mood, finding positive developments in all of these areas.

The analysis also revealed links between increasing levels of beta-amyloid (a biomarker that is the basis of blood tests used to diagnose Alzheimer’s) at both the 3-month and 6-month measuring points. This link was found to be much stronger in the group that did the yoga meditation.

Other Benefits of Meditation for Seniors

Meditation may not only help stave off Alzheimer’s disease, but it can perhaps accomplish remarkably more. In his book, Mindfulness Is Better than Chocolate: A Practical Guide to Enhanced Focus and Lasting Happiness in a World of Distractions, David Michie describes some of the physical and mental benefits of meditation, as follows:

  • Stress reduction: Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace, and balance that can benefit your emotional well-being and your overall health. You also can use it to relax and cope with stress by focusing on something that calms you. Meditation can help you learn to stay centered and keep inner peace.
  • Boosts immunity: Meditation boosts DHEA, a natural steroid in our body that fights bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections.
  • Improves mood and sleep: When we meditate, our bodies produce more serotonin, which regulates mood, appetite, and sleep. When meditating we also make more melatonin, which helps regulate the circadian rhythm, enhancing sleep and helping combat insomnia.
  • Slows aging: Meditation increases telomerase activity, which helps maintain telomere length, a key marker of cellular aging. Studies show that those who meditate for 5 years or longer have biological markers of people 12 years younger!
  • Improves focus: Studies show that meditation can help you stay on task longer and enjoy your tasks more. By incorporating meditation into your day, you can declutter your thoughts and sharpen your concentration, even under pressure.
  • Enhances clarity: Better focus through regular meditation may increase memory and mental clarity. According to Michie, “Clarity also brings us joy – music sounds sweeter, coffee tastes more delicious, our sensory experiences are more powerful when clouded by less inner chatter.”
  • Builds resilience: Those who meditate are less likely to feel provoked and act angrily or impulsively. They are, instead, more capable of choosing a better response and recovering more easily after becoming upset or angry. They become increasingly aware that even though they can’t control everything that happens to them, they can always choose how they experience an event and react to it.
  • Enhances willpower: Meditation helps us to develop the mental discipline needed to avoid unhelpful habits.
  • Reduces pain: Meditation can reduce pain and boost emotion regulation. Together with medical care, this may help treat chronic pain.
  • Lower blood pressure: Blood pressure decreases during meditation and over time in people who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and blood vessels and help prevent heart disease.
  • Reduces anxiety: Regular meditation helps reduce anxiety. It can also help with mental health issues such as social anxiety, fears, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
  • Builds awareness and enhances compassion: Meditation can help you better understand yourself, find your best self, and increase positive feelings and actions toward others.

Ways to Practice Meditation

You can practice meditation on your own and make it as formal or informal as you like. Some people build meditation into their daily routine. For example, they may start and end each day with an hour of meditation. But if you don’t have that much time to spare, all you really need is a few minutes a day for meditation.

Here are some ways you can practice meditation on your own, whenever and wherever you choose:

  • Sit or stand in a calm, quiet place with eyes closed or gaze down.
  • Breathe deeply: Feel your breath and listen to it as you inhale and exhale through your nose. Breathe deeply and slowly into your abdominal area, not into your chest. Observe your abdominal area expanding and contracting. Feel the sensation of breath inside your nostrils with each inhalation and exhalation. When your mind wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing. As you focus on your breath, you may notice thoughts, emotions, sensations, and sounds — don’t worry about these potential distractions; just allow yourself to recognize they exist as they arise and dissolve in your mind.
  • Scan your body. Make sure you are stable and in a comfortable position you can stay in the whole time. Focus attention on each part of your body. Become aware of how your body feels. That might be pain, tension, warmth, or relaxation. Mix body scanning with breathing exercises and think about breathing heat or relaxation into and out of any parts of your body that are a source of concern.
  • Repeat a mantra. Instead of focusing on your breath, you can focus on a mantra. A mantra is a sound that is typically a meaningless word such as om or shi-am, which you say to yourself silently, trying to focus just on the mantra and on nothing else.
  • Walk and meditate. Meditating while walking is a good and healthy way to relax. You can use this technique anywhere you’re walking, such as in a forest, on a city sidewalk, or at the mall. Slow your walking pace so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Repeat action words in your mind such as “lifting,” “moving,” and “placing,” and as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground. Be mindful of the sights, sounds, and smells around you.
  • Pray: You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others. Talk with your spiritual leader about possible resources.
  • Focus your love and kindness: In this type of meditation, you think of others with feelings of love, compassion, and kindness. This can help increase how connected you feel to others.
  • Read and reflect: Many people report that they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts and taking a few moments to think about their meaning.
  • Listen to relaxing music: Listen to music, spoken words, or whatever relaxes or inspires you. You may want to write your thoughts in a journal or discuss them with a close friend or therapist.
  • Do yoga: Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that uses breath control, physical exercise, and meditative postures. Meditation is a part of yoga where you form a profound connection with the universe by doing mental exercises to bring you to a higher state of consciousness. This connection happens when you are in a meditative, peaceful state.

For more details about meditation and mindfulness, please read my other articles on the subject here.

Meditate to Bring the Body and Mind to a Better Place

As you can see, meditating regularly can help you stave off symptoms of dementia, give you excellent coping strategies, and enable you to have an increased awareness you may have never experienced before, yielding many positive results in your life.

As you are finding ways to help with your mind and body, one of the greatest ways to gain peace of mind comes with planning for your future and for your loved ones. If you haven’t yet done your living trust estate planning, if you don’t have a comprehensive power of attorney with asset protection powers, or if a loved one is nearing the need for nursing home care, please call us today!

Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Estate Planning: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Care: 301-519-8041
DC Alzheimer’s Planning: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.