Could Meditation Slow Down Cognitive Decline?

aging woman meditatingAccording to the National Institutes of Health, about one in seven Americans over the age of 71 has some form of dementia. Loss of gray matter in the brain figures prominently in both “typical” age-related cognitive decline and more serious forms of decline. Although it generally takes several decades for symptoms to appear, this process of brain deterioration can begin as early as the late twenties. But according to a new study published in Frontiers in Psychology, meditation could help combat age-related losses in brain volume, mass, and gray matter.

Can Meditation Stall Aging of the Brain?

To measure how meditation might affect brain aging across the life span, researchers compared two groups of 28 men and 22 women. Participants ranged in age from 24 to 77. One group did not meditate, but the other group had meditated for many years. The average time spent meditating in this second group was about 20 years, but some members had meditated for four decades or longer.

Unsurprisingly, brain scans revealed that both groups experienced a loss in gray matter as they aged. In the meditation group, though, gray matter volume didn’t decline as much or as quickly as it did among people who did not meditate. Though the study was relatively small, these preliminary results suggest that meditation might help protect the brain against some forms of aging, potentially delaying or preventing age-related cognitive problems.

Meditation Tips

Research is increasingly linking meditation to numerous benefits, including reduced stress, improvements in depression and anxiety, a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and high blood pressure, and better luck coping with the challenges of chronic pain. If you’d like to try meditation, you don’t need a guide or a course in meditation. Instead, try one or more of the following strategies:

  • In a quiet, stress-free location, repeat a calming mantra.
  • Attend a yoga class and focus on deep, deliberate breathing.
  • Focus on cultivating mindfulness by increasing awareness of your surroundings and slowing down your thoughts.
  • Slow your breathing and count your breaths.
  • Focus on a single thought or object, redirecting your mind to this focal point each time it wanders.

References:

  1. Forever young: Meditation might slow the age-related loss of gray matter in the brain. (2015, February 5). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150205142951.htm
  2. Meditation. (2014, July 19). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858
  3. One in seven Americans age 71 and older has some type of dementia, NIH-funded study estimates. (2007, October 30). Retrieved from http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/oct2007/nia-30.htm

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  • Kai

    Kai

    February 13th, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    Exercise for the brain!

  • sloane

    sloane

    February 13th, 2015 at 2:04 PM

    I sure do hope that there are a great deal of internists and geriatric providers who get the word on this and start prescribing this for their patients. It sure beats taking a pill, every day. I am all for when something can be treated in a more holistic manner, then we should go for it, because in this case it can only help matters, not worsen

  • Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    Catherine Boyer, MA, LCSW

    February 15th, 2015 at 12:12 PM

    It’s encouraging how research continues to validate the practice of meditation. It’s a wonderful counterbalance to the speeded up quality so many experience in the world today.

  • Ray

    Ray

    February 16th, 2015 at 5:30 AM

    I am telling you, there is so much information that is now coming out about the healing abilities of non traditional medicine, and while it might take most of us a little time to get on board, I think that the improvements that are seen are just too significant to continue to be ignored. Give me this over a new prescription any day!

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