Reduce Age-Associated Decline in Cerebrovascular Function with Tai Chi
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“In addition to the physical components of tai chi, this form of exercise has mental and emotional advantages. Some studies have shown people who perform tai chi on a regular basis see improvements in cognitive function and memory.” – Phillips Lifeline
The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. The elderly often have problems with attention, thinking, and memory abilities, known as mild cognitive impairment. An encouraging new development is that mindfulness practices such as meditation training and mindful movement practices can significantly reduce these declines in cognitive ability. In addition, it has been found that mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue. Indeed, the brains of practitioners of meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.
Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi training is designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Tai Chi practice has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attention, balance, reducing falls, arthritis, cognitive function, memory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. So, it makes sense to further study the effects of Tai Chi training on the brains of older adults.
In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi exercise improves age-associated decline in cerebrovascular function: a cross-sectional study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8101197/ ) Li and colleagues recruited healthy older adult (aged 60-69 years) Tai Chi practitioners, age matched older adult non-practitioners, and healthy young adults (aged 21-25 years). They were measured for heart rate, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI). They also underwent measurement of cerebrovascular hemodynamics.
They found that the older the participants the higher the systolic blood pressure but the lower the cerebrovascular blood flow. Importantly, the cerebrovascular hemodynamics of the older Tai Chi practitioners were significantly higher than the age matched controls and the levels approached those of the young adults. Including carotid blood flow velocity, overall elasticity of the arterial wall, and the degree of flow of small blood vessels and capillaries and reduced arterial resistance.
The present study was cross-sectional, comparing older adults who practiced Tai Chi to those who did not. This kind of design doesn’t allow for clear conclusions about causation. But previous research by others using training in Tai Chi demonstrated that it reduced age-related decline. So, it is likely that the benefits observed in the present study were also due to the practice of Tai Chi.
Age-related reductions in cerebrovascular hemodynamics are associated with cognitive decline and dementia but were not measured in the present study. But previous research has demonstrated that Tai Chi practice improves cognition and reduces dementia. So, it is likely that the observed better cerebrovascular hemodynamics in the older Tai Chi participants is a marker of improvements in cognition and reduced dementia. This suggests that age-related decline in cerebrovascular hemodynamics may be a major cause of cognitive decline and dementia with aging and that Tai Chi practice can reduce these declines by improving cerebrovascular hemodynamics.
So, reduce age-associated decline in cerebrovascular function with Tai Chi.
“Tai Chi exercise had potential beneficial effects on cerebral hemodynamics, plasma risk factors, and balance ability in older community adults” – Guohua Zheng
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Li, L., Wang, J., Guo, S., Xing, Y., Ke, X., Chen, Y., He, Y., Wang, S., Wang, J., Cui, X., Wang, Z., & Tang, L. (2021). Tai Chi exercise improves age-associated decline in cerebrovascular function: a cross-sectional study. BMC geriatrics, 21(1), 293. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12877-021-02196-9
Tai Chi exercise has been reported to enhance physical and mental health in the older adults; however, the mechanism remains elusive.
We recruited 289 older adults practicing Tai Chi for over 3 years, together with 277 age-matched older and 102 young adults as controls. 168 Tai Chi practitioners were successfully matched to 168 older controls aged 60–69 based on a propensity score for statistics.
Cerebrovascular function was evaluated by measuring the hemodynamics of the carotid artery. Spearman correlation was performed to validate the age-associated physiological parameters.
Cerebrovascular function in older adults significantly degenerated compared with the young, and was substantially correlated with age. Compared with the older control group, Tai Chi practitioners showed significant improvements in CVHI (cerebral vascular hemodynamics indices) Score (P = 0.002), mean blood flow velocity (P = 0.014), maximal blood flow velocity (P = 0.04) and minimum blood flow velocity (P < 0.001), whereas the age-related increases in pulse wave velocity (P = 0.022), characteristic impedance (P = 0.021) and peripheral resistance (P = 0.044) were lowered.
These data demonstrate a rejuvenation role of Tai Chi in improving the age-related decline of the cerebrovascular function.