Reduce Inflammation in elderly Women with Yoga

Reduce Inflammation in elderly Women with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Inflammaging has been associated with conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stress, depression, and a weakened immune system. Several recent studies suggest that yoga could slow the harmful physical effects of stress and inflammaging.” – Marylynn Wei

 

The immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like stress, infection, injury, and toxic chemicals. One of its tools is the Inflammatory response. This response works quite well for short-term infections and injuries. But when inflammation is protracted and becomes chronic, it can itself become a threat to health. It can produce autoimmune diseases such as colitis, Chron’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, increased cancer risk, lung disease, sleep disruption, gum disease, decreased bone health, psoriasis, and depression. Needless to say, chronic inflammation can create major health problems. Indeed, the presence of chronic inflammation is associated with reduced longevity. So, it is important for health to control the inflammatory response, allowing it to do its job in fighting off infection but reducing its activity when no real external threat is apparent.

 

Of course, it is far better to prevent chronic inflammation in the first place than to treat it later. Mind-body techniques such as yoga, Tai Chi and meditation have been shown to adaptively reduce the inflammatory response. Aging is associated with a decline in immune system function and therefore an increase in chronic inflammation. As a result, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to chronic inflammation. So, it would make sense to test the effectiveness of mindfulness practices in the levels of inflammation in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Elderly-customized hatha yoga effects on the vascular inflammation factors of elderly women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683994/ ), Kim and Ju Examined this issue by recruiting 14 healthy elderly women between the ages of 70 and 80 and randomly assigning 7 of the women to no treatment and 7 to receive a 10-week, 3 times per week for 60 minutes Hatha yoga program. The Hatha yoga poses were modified for the elderly performing many of the poses while sitting in a chair. Blood was drawn at the beginning and end of the program and assayed for inflammation markers of albumin, white blood cell count, fibrinogen, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate.

 

They found that there were no significant changes in the inflammation markers for the control group, but the Hatha yoga group showed significant changes signaling reduced inflammation. These changes included significantly increased albumin levels and decreased vascular inflammation markers of fibrinogen, high sensitivity C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. So, engaging in Hatha yoga practice appeared to reduce inflammation in these elderly women.

 

The results should be interpreted carefully as there was not an active control condition. So, it cannot be determined if the yoga practice per se was responsible for the improvements or simply any gentle exercise would produce comparable benefits. But, the fact that statistically significant findings were present with only 7 women in the yoga group is remarkable and suggests that the effects are robust. Future research should include men and have an active control condition, perhaps treadmill walking or similar gentle aerobic exercise.

 

So, reduce inflammation in elderly women with Yoga.

 

There’s also good news for those of us who have a regular yoga practice. Several studies now report that a regular yoga practice brings down the levels of stress hormones that promote inflammation, lowers the levels of a number of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body and brings down inflammation that is beneficial in conditions like arthritis, reduces a subset of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines thereby relieving severe pain seen in diseases like fibromyalgia, and Inhibits inflammation that in turn weakens and even kills cancerous cells in people with cancer.” -Ram Rao

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kim, S., & Ju, S. (2017). Elderly-customized hatha yoga effects on the vascular inflammation factors of elderly women. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 29(10), 1708–1711. http://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.29.1708

 

Abstract

[Purpose] The aim of this study was to examine the effects of the application of elderly-customized hatha yoga on the vascular inflammation factors of elderly women. [Subjects and Methods] This research was conducted with 14 elderly women, between 70 and 80 years old, divided into an elderly-customized hatha yoga group (n=7) and a control group (n=7). The application group participated in a hatha yoga program designed to be elderly-friendly for 10 weeks. At the end of the program, the vascular inflammation factors were measured, including the albumin, white blood cell count, fibrinogen, high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). [Results] In the hatha yoga group, the albumin increased significantly after the application, when compared to the level before the application, while the fibrinogen, hs-CRP, and ESR decreased significantly. In the control group, the vascular inflammation factor levels before and after the application period were not significantly different. [Conclusion] Based on the results of this study, the application of elderly-customized hatha yoga created positive changes in the vascular inflammation factors of elderly women.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5683994/

Improve Psychological Well-Being in the Elderly with Mild Memory Loss with Meditation

Improve Psychological Well-Being in the Elderly with Mild Memory Loss with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the answers we’re looking for when it comes to ending memory loss could be gained by simply doing KK for 12 minutes each morning? Perhaps that magic bullet is already here, waiting to be discovered in each and every one of us after all. Now, wouldn’t that be grand?” – Dharma Singh Khalsa

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. It cannot be avoided. Our mental abilities may also decline with age including impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. These are called age related cognitive decline. This occurs to everyone as they age, but to varying degrees. Some deteriorate into a dementia, while others maintain high levels of cognitive capacity into very advanced ages. It is estimated that around 30% of the elderly show significant age related cognitive decline. These cognitive declines markedly increase the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. The declines occur along with sleep disruptions declines in mental health and quality of life, which in turn, appear to exacerbate the decline.

 

There is some hope, however, for those who are prone to deterioration as there is evidence that these cognitive declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. Indeed, mindfulness practices reduce the deterioration of the brain that occurs with aging restraining the loss of neural tissue.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/ ), Innes and colleagues recruited community living adults over 50 years of age and experiencing memory problems and slight cognitive decline. They were randomly assigned to 12-week, 12 minutes per day, programs of classical music listening or Kirtan Kriya meditation, performed while sitting comfortably with eyes closed. At the first session the participants received 35-minute instruction on relaxation and their specific program and then provided DVDs for daily home practice. Kirtan Kriya meditation included signing a mantra, successive finger touching and visualization exercises. After the 12 weeks of practice participants were free to continue practicing if they wished. They were measured before and after the 12-week programs and 14 weeks later for body size, sleep quality, perceived stress, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, mood, memory, and cognitive performance.

 

Retention and participation were high, with 92% of the music listening participants and 88% of the meditation participants completing the program. Participants completed 93% of the required session and 73% of the optional sessions during the second 14-week period. This indicates that the participants found the programs enjoyable and worth their time and effort.

 

Over the 12-week program, both groups showed significant improvements in sleep quality, perceived stress, health-related quality of life, psychological well-being, and mood. These improvements were either sustained or further improved over the subsequent 14 weeks. The meditation group had significantly greater improvements than the music listening group in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and mental health quality of life. In addition, the greater the improvements in mood, stress, sleep, well-being, and quality of life, the greater the improvements in memory function. Hence, the two forms of relaxation produced improvements in the participants well-being which were related to improvements in memory. But, meditation had a greater impact then music listening.

 

These results are quite remarkable that such simple practices for only 12 minutes per day can have such profound effects on the well-being of aging individuals with slight cognitive decline. This could potentially delay of lower the likelihood that the decline will continue into dementia of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is important that the effects were lasting and participation high, both of which suggest that the meditation program can be easily and inexpensively applied to large groups of community-based aging individuals.

 

So, improve psychological well-being in the elderly with mild memory loss with meditation

 

“Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) can affect up to 20% of the population at any one time—and half of them will progress to full-on dementia. Now, a recent study . . .  finds as little as 15 minutes of daily meditation can significantly slow that progression.” – Nina Elias

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Innes, K. E., Selfe, T. K., Khalsa, D. S., & Kandati, S. (2016). Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease : JAD, 52(4), 1277–1298. http://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-151106

 

Abstract

Background

Older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) are at increased risk not only for Alzheimer’s disease, but for poor mental health, impaired sleep, and diminished quality of life (QOL), which in turn, contribute to further cognitive decline, highlighting the need for early intervention.

Objective

In this randomized controlled trial, we assessed the effects of two 12-week relaxation programs, Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KK) and music listening (ML), on perceived stress, sleep, mood, and health-related QOL in older adults with SCD.

Methods

Sixty community-dwelling older adults with SCD were randomized to a KK or ML program and asked to practice 12 minutes daily for 12 weeks, then at their discretion for the following 3 months. At baseline, 12 weeks, and 26 weeks, perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, sleep quality, and health-related QOL were measured using well-validated instruments.

Results

Fifty-three participants (88%) completed the 6-month study. Participants in both groups showed significant improvement at 12 weeks in psychological well-being and in multiple domains of mood and sleep quality (p’s ≤ 0.05). Relative to ML, those assigned to KK showed greater gains in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and QOL-Mental Health (p’s ≤ 0.09). Observed gains were sustained or improved at 6 months, with both groups showing marked and significant improvement in all outcomes. Changes were unrelated to treatment expectancies.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that practice of a simple meditation or ML program may improve stress, mood, well-being, sleep, and QOL in adults with SCD, with benefits sustained at 6 months and gains that were particularly pronounced in the KK group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/

Improve Memory and Frontal Lobe Function in Older Adults with Mind-Body Practices

Improve Memory and Frontal Lobe Function in Older Adults with Mind-Body Practices

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Scientists . . . found increases in brain volume and improvements on tests of memory and thinking in Chinese seniors who practiced Tai Chi three times a week.” – Science Daily

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits.

 

The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume and activity of the brain as the years go by. Researchers have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve 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 all been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners. A practice, similar to Tai Chi, Baduanjin is a mind-body training consisted of 8 movements for limbs, body-trunk, and eye movements. But it has not been evaluated for application to aging individuals.

Because Tai Chi and Baduanjin are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.

 

In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin Mind-Body Training Changes Resting-State Low-Frequency Fluctuations in the Frontal Lobe of Older Adults: A Resting-State fMRI Study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670503/ ), Tao and colleagues recruited older sedentary adults (50 to 70 years of age) and randomly assigned them to either a no-treatment control who were provided health information or to practice either Tai Chi or Baduanjin mind-body training for 12 weeks, one hour per day, five days per week. Participants were measured before and after training for memory and cognitive functions. They also underwent functional-Magnetic Resonance Imaging (f-MRI).

 

They found that the Tai Chi and Baduanjin groups did not differ, but, in comparison to baseline and the education control group they had significant (18%-24%) increases in memory performance after training. The brain scans demonstrated that, in comparison to the education control group the Baduanjin group had significant increases in activity in the low frequency range in the Medial Prefrontal Cortex while the Tai Chi group had significant increases in activity in the low frequency range in the Dorsal Lateral Prefrontal Cortex. Importantly, they found that the greater the increase in activity in the Prefrontal Areas the greater the improvement in memory.

 

Hence, the results showed that both mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin improved memory in older adults in association with increases in Prefrontal Lobe activity. The Prefrontal cortex has been associated previously with memory, attention, and high-level thinking (executive function). The present results suggest that the mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin act to improve memory in older adults by producing neuroplastic changes that increase activity in the brain’s Prefrontal Areas. Interestingly, the results also show that the two mind-body practices may act on different mechanisms in the brain; with Tai Chi acting on the medial areas of the Prefrontal Cortex while Baduanjin acting on the Dorsal Lateral areas.

 

Memory deteriorates with aging and this can progress to severe memory impairments and dementia. The results of this study suggest that engagement in the mind-body practices of Tai Chi and Baduanjin may be able to slow or prevent that decline by strengthening brain processing in the Prefrontal Cortex. Since both Tai Chi and Baduanjin are simple and safe exercises that can be easily learned and practiced at home alone or in groups, they are economical and scalable practices to improve memory during aging. As such, they should be recommended for older adults.

 

So, improve memory and frontal lobe function in older adults with mind-body practices.

 

“Because Tai Chi can be done indoors or out, and as a group activity or by yourself, it suits both people who like to work out alone at home and those who prefer to get their exercise in a social setting.” – Mark Huntsman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Tao, J., Chen, X., Liu, J., Egorova, N., Xue, X., Liu, W., … Kong, J. (2017). Tai Chi Chuan and Baduanjin Mind-Body Training Changes Resting-State Low-Frequency Fluctuations in the Frontal Lobe of Older Adults: A Resting-State fMRI Study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, 514. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00514

 

Abstract

Age-related cognitive decline is a significant public health concern. Recently, non-pharmacological methods, such as physical activity and mental training practices, have emerged as promising low-cost methods to slow the progression of age-related memory decline. In this study, we investigated if Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) and Baduanjin modulated the fractional amplitude of low-frequency fluctuations (fALFF) in different frequency bands (low-frequency: 0.01–0.08 Hz; slow-5: 0.01–0.027 Hz; slow-4: 0.027–0.073 Hz) and improved memory function. Older adults were recruited for the randomized study. Participants in the TCC and Baduanjin groups received 12 weeks of training (1 h/day for 5 days/week). Participants in the control group received basic health education. Each subject participated in memory tests and fMRI scans at the beginning and end of the experiment. We found that compared to the control group: (1) TCC and Baduanjin groups demonstrated significant improvements in memory function; (2) TCC increased fALFF in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands; and (3) Baduanjin increased fALFF in the medial PFC in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands. This increase was positively associated with memory function improvement in the slow-5 and low-frequency bands across the TCC and Baduanjin groups. Our results suggest that TCC and Baduanjin may work through different brain mechanisms to prevent memory decline due to aging.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5670503/

Improve Thinking in Older Adults with Tai Chi

Improve Thinking in Older Adults with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“It may be no surprise that Tai Chi has physical benefits – after all, it involves movement. Well, did you know that Tai Chi may also have mental benefits? Specifically, . . . significant increases in the brain size, memory and thinking of older adults who practiced Tai Chi compared to other groups in the study.” – Tai Chi for Health

 

We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including cognitive function (thinking ability) and motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical and cognitive decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

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. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. But, it has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain. Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.

 

In today’s Research News article “The benefits of Tai Chi and brisk walking for cognitive function and fitness in older adults.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5652256/ ), Ji and colleagues recruited health adults aged 60 to 72 years. Participants who engaged in Tai Chi, brisk walking, or no exercise were compared on cognitive performance. They were measured with the Stroop test where names of colors were presented in colors different from the word, e.g. the word RED appears in a blue color. The participants are asked to report the word (naming) or the color of the word ignoring the meaning of the word itself (inhibition) or switch back and forth (Executive function). They were also measured with a digit comparison task in which they were presented with two numbers and asked to identify which was larger. The numbers were presented either simultaneously (non-delay) or delayed by 1.5 seconds (delay).

 

They found that both the Tai Chi and brisk walking groups were superior on the tasks than the control group. But, the Tai Chi group responded faster on the Stroop naming and executive conditions and were more accurate on the inhibition condition than the brisk walking group. In addition, the Tai Chi group responded faster than the brisk walking group on the delayed digit comparison condition. This suggests that the both Tai Chi and brisk walking participation improves cognitive performance in older adults but that Tai Chi dose so better than brisk walking.

 

The interpretation of the results needs to be qualified as there was no active manipulations of the activity conditions. Older adults who already participated in these activities were simply compared. Hence, it is impossible to conclude causation. It is conceivable that people who chose to participate in Tai Chi may be different people with better cognitive ability than people who chose brisk walking. The observed differences, then, may be due to the typ of people whoe chose an activity rather than the effects of the activity.

 

But, taken at face value the results suggest the Tai Chi, which places greater cognitive demands on the practitioner than brisk walking, has greater cognitive benefits. Given the progressive inevitable decline with aging in cognitive ability, methods that can slow or delay the decline are valuable. Tai Chi would appear to be an almost ideal method to improve fitness and balance, reducing falls, in the elderly and improve cognitive performance.

 

So, improve thinking in older adults with tai chi.

 

“Epidemiologic studies have shown repeatedly that individuals who engage in more physical exercise or are more socially active have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The current findings suggest that this may be a result of growth and preservation of critical regions of the brain affected by this illness.” – James Mortimer

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ji, Z., Li, A., Feng, T., Liu, X., You, Y., Meng, F., … Zhang, C. (2017).. PeerJ, 5, e3943. http://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3943

 

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the benefits of exercises with different cognitive demands for cognitive functions (Executive and non-Executive) in healthy older adults. A cross-sectional design was adopted. In total, 84 healthy older adults were enrolled in the study. They were categorized into the Tai Chi group (TG), the brisk walking group (BG) or the control group (CG). Each participant performed the Stroop task and a digit comparison task. The Stroop task included the following three conditions: a naming condition, an inhibition condition and an executive condition. There were two experimental conditions in the digit comparison task: the non-delay condition and the delay condition. The results indicated that participants of the TG and BG revealed significant better performance than the CG in the executive condition of cognitive tasks and fitness. There was no significant difference of reaction time (RT) and accuracy rate in the inhibition and delay conditions of cognitive tasks and fitness between the TG and BG. The TG showed shorter reaction time in the naming and the executive conditions, and more accurate in the inhibition conditions than the BG. These findings demonstrated that regular participation in brisk walking and Tai Chi have significant beneficial effects on executive function and fitness. However, due to the high cognitive demands of the exercise, Tai Chi benefit cognitive functions (Executive and non-Executive) in older adults more than brisk walking does. Further studies should research the underlying mechanisms at the behavioural and neuroelectric levels, providing more evidence to explain the effect of high-cognitive demands exercise on different processing levels of cognition.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5652256/

Protect the Aging Brain with Yoga

Protect the Aging Brain with Yoga

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“We’ve all known yogis who seemed to defy the hands of time. The current study is just one of a long list of studies indicating that yoga may promote healthy aging. Whether it be more growth hormone or less stress, a well-balanced yoga practice is good for you.” – Grace Bullock

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume of the brain as we age. But, the nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.

 

Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve 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 and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Greater Cortical Thickness in Elderly Female Yoga Practitioners—A Cross-Sectional Study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476728/, Afonso and colleagues recruited women over 60 years of age with at least 8 years of Hatha yoga practice and a group of women, matched for age, education and physical activity, who had never practiced yoga, meditation, or other mind-body practices. They were measured for their ability to perform daily tasks of living, depression, and cognitive function. All participants underwent brain scanning with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 

They found that the yoga practitioners had significantly greater cortical thickness in the frontal lobes than the control group while there were no areas where the yoga practitioners had significantly less cortical thickness. Hence, the practice of yoga appears to protect the prefrontal cortical areas from age related degeneration. This replicates previous findings that mindfulness practices, in general, increase the size of the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal areas are important for high level thinking, including attention, behavioral inhibition, and executive functions. Hence, their preservation is important for the maintenance of cognitive ability with aging. So, the practice of yoga should be viewed as an important means to preserve the brain and mental ability and thereby age successfully.

 

So, protect the aging brain with yoga.

 

“scientifically and medically, most of the claims made for yoga practice stand up. The benefits on both body and mind are legion. The anti-ageing impact is profound. Doing yoga reduces back pain, improves balance and muscle strength and reverses muscle loss. It improves symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, menopausal symptoms, even the control of type 2 diabetes. It decreases anxiety and depression. It hugely enhances flexibility. There are endless sound academic sources to back up these statements as well as the testimony of countless practitioners.” – Carla McKay

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Afonso, R. F., Balardin, J. B., Lazar, S., Sato, J. R., Igarashi, N., Santaella, D. F., … Kozasa, E. H. (2017). Greater Cortical Thickness in Elderly Female Yoga Practitioners—A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 9, 201. http://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00201

 

Abstract

Yoga, a mind-body activity that requires attentional engagement, has been associated with positive changes in brain structure and function, especially in areas related to awareness, attention, executive functions and memory. Normal aging, on the other hand, has also been associated with structural and functional brain changes, but these generally involve decreased cognitive functions. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to compare brain cortical thickness (CT) in elderly yoga practitioners and a group of age-matched healthy non-practitioners. We tested 21 older women who had practiced hatha yoga for at least 8 years and 21 women naive to yoga, meditation or any mind-body interventions who were matched to the first group in age, years of formal education and physical activity level. A T1-weighted MPRAGE sequence was acquired for each participant. Yoga practitioners showed significantly greater CT in a left prefrontal lobe cluster, which included portions of the lateral middle frontal gyrus, anterior superior frontal gyrus and dorsal superior frontal gyrus. We found greater CT in the left prefrontal cortex of healthy elderly women who trained yoga for a minimum of 8 years compared with women in the control group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5476728/

Reduce the Stress of Aging and Improve Quality of Life with Meditation

Reduce the Stress of Aging and Improve Quality of Life with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

if we can delay the onset of memory loss by five years, we can reduce an individual’s chance of developing Alzheimer’s by 50 percent. Moreover, if you can keep your memory strong and vital 10 years longer than expected, you can forget about ever getting Alzheimer’s.” – Dharma Singh Khalsa

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decline during aging. As we age, there are systematic progressive declines in every system in the body, the brain included. This includes our mental abilities and results in impairments in memory, attention, and problem solving ability. It is inevitable and cannot be avoided. Aging also results in changes in mental health. Depression is very common in the elderly. The elderly cope with increasing loss of friends and family, deteriorating health, as well as concerns regarding finances on fixed incomes. All of these are legitimate sources of worry. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. But, no matter how reasonable, the increased loneliness, worry and anxiety add extra stress that can impact on the elderly’s already deteriorating physical and psychological health.

 

Mindfulness appears to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues that occur with aging. It appears to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. It has also been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline with aging. and improve cognitive processes. It has also been shown to reduce anxietyworry, and depression and improve overall mental health. Since the global population of the elderly is increasing at unprecedented rates, it is imperative to investigate safe and effective methods to slow physical and mental aging and improve mental health in the elderly.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/, Innes and colleagues recruited older adults (over 50 years of age) with mild cognitive impairments and randomly assigned them to either relax and listen to classical music or practice Kirtan Kriya meditation for 12-minutes, once a day for 12 weeks. They were measured before and after treatment and again 3 months later for perceived stress, sleep quality, positive and negative moods, psychological well-being, health-related quality of life, memory, and cognitive ability. Retention of participants was high as only 8% dropped out of the study.

 

They found that after 12 weeks of practice both the music listening and the Kirtan Kriya meditation groups showed significant improvements in psychological well-being, mood, including anxiety, depression, confusion, anger, and fatigue, sleep quality, and health-related quality of life, including mental health, energy, and emotional well-being. These improvements were sustained 3 months after the conclusion of formal practice. Importantly, the Kirtan Kriya meditation group had significantly greater improvement in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, mental health-related quality of life than the music listening group.

 

These results suggest that relaxation in general produces sustained improvements in the well-being of older adults with mild cognitive impairments. But, Kirtan Kriya meditation practice produces greater improvements. The fact that there was a music listening control group suggests that it was the meditation per se and not just the relaxation inherent in meditation practice that was responsible for the improvements. This suggests that meditation practice is very beneficial of older adults with mild cognitive impairments improving their mental health, perceived stress, and well-being and that these improvements are sustained at least for 3 months. Since, these factors are associated with further cognitive decline, the results suggest that meditation practice may slow age-related cognitive decline.

 

So, reduce the stress of aging and quality of life with meditation.

 

“One of the major difficulties that individuals with dementia and their family members encounter is that there is a need for new ways of communicating due to the memory loss and other changes in thinking and abilities. The practice of mindfulness places both participants in the present and focuses on positive features of the interaction, allowing for a type of connection that may substitute for the more complex ways of communicating in the past. It is a good way to address stress.” – Sandra Weintraub

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kim E. Innes, Terry Kit Selfe, Dharma Singh Khalsa, Sahiti Kandati. Effects of Meditation versus Music Listening on Perceived Stress, Mood, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Adults with Early Memory Loss: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. J Alzheimers Dis.  2016 Apr 8; 52(4): 1277–1298. doi: 10.3233/JAD-151106

 

Abstract

Background

Older adults with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) are at increased risk not only for Alzheimer’s disease, but for poor mental health, impaired sleep, and diminished quality of life (QOL), which in turn, contribute to further cognitive decline, highlighting the need for early intervention.

Objective

In this randomized controlled trial, we assessed the effects of two 12-week relaxation programs, Kirtan Kriya Meditation (KK) and music listening (ML), on perceived stress, sleep, mood, and health-related QOL in older adults with SCD.

Methods

Sixty community-dwelling older adults with SCD were randomized to a KK or ML program and asked to practice 12 minutes daily for 12 weeks, then at their discretion for the following 3 months. At baseline, 12 weeks, and 26 weeks, perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, sleep quality, and health-related QOL were measured using well-validated instruments.

Results

Fifty-three participants (88%) completed the 6-month study. Participants in both groups showed significant improvement at 12 weeks in psychological well-being and in multiple domains of mood and sleep quality (p’s ≤ 0.05). Relative to ML, those assigned to KK showed greater gains in perceived stress, mood, psychological well-being, and QOL-Mental Health (p’s ≤ 0.09). Observed gains were sustained or improved at 6 months, with both groups showing marked and significant improvement in all outcomes. Changes were unrelated to treatment expectancies.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that practice of a simple meditation or ML program may improve stress, mood, well-being, sleep, and QOL in adults with SCD, with benefits sustained at 6 months and gains that were particularly pronounced in the KK group.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5649740/

Improve Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Factors with Mindfulness

Improve Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Factors with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“MBSR may reduce hippocampal atrophy and improve functional connectivity in the same areas of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s disease. MBSR is a relatively simple intervention, with very little downside that may provide real promise for these individuals who have very few treatment options.” – Rebecca Wells

 

In the course of normal aging, there is a slow decline in cognitive ability. But, for some the decline can be excessive producing dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It involves an irreversible progressive loss of mental function associated with brain degeneration. The early stages are typified by memory loss but as the disease progresses patients can lose the ability to carry on a conversation or carry on normal life functions, and eventually leads to death. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. On average, this progression lasts about 8 years but can last as long as 20 years. Alzheimer’s typically first emerges after age 65, but can occur at younger ages.

 

It is estimated that 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s disease. But, there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms. These include drug treatments. Recently, mindfulness practices have been shown to improve the symptoms of age related dementia. It has been shown that chronic stress is a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a mindfulness technique that was designed to reduce stress and its effects. So, it would seem reasonable to study the ability of MBSR to relieve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

In today’s Research News article “Plasma REST: a novel candidate biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease is modified by psychological intervention in an at-risk population.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537638/, Ashton and colleagues examined the association of a biomarker, repressor element 1-silencing transcription (REST), with Alzheimer’s disease and the ability of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to alter REST and the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. They recruited patients over 65 years of age with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and healthy elderly control participants. They scanned their brains with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and collected blood samples to measure the plasma levels of REST. They also recruited individuals over 65 years of age with anxiety, depression, and mild cognitive impairment. They were randomly assigned to receive an 8-week program of either MBSR or health education. They measured memory, verbal fluency, executive function, anxiety, depression, worry, and collected blood samples to measure the plasma levels of REST.

 

They found that REST levels were significantly lower in Alzheimer’s disease patients than healthy control participants. Also, the lower the levels of REST the lower the brain volumes in these patients. In addition, the REST levels in participants with mild cognitive impairment who later expressed full blown Alzheimer’s disease were significantly lower than those participants who did not. MBSR produced a significant increase in REST and the greater the level of REST increase the greater the improvement in anxiety and depression.

 

These are very interesting and potentially important findings that suggest that levels of repressor element 1-silencing transcription (REST) in the blood may be a marker for Alzheimer’s disease. It is lower in patients with active Alzheimer’s disease and in people with mild cognitive impairment who would eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease and is associated with reduced brain volume. MBSR participation increases REST and the increase is associated with improved symptoms. This suggests that low REST levels identify Alzheimer’s disease patients and that mindfulness practice can increase REST levels.

 

Repressor element 1-silencing transcription (REST) promotes the development of neurons. So, low levels of REST may be a sign that neural development has slowed or stopped and this may be an important mechanism for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, mindfulness training may be able to reverse the decline in REST and could potentially restrain the development of the disease. It is not known how MBSR could affect REST, but it can be speculated that the ability of MBSR to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress may be involved.

 

So, improve Alzheimer’s disease risk factors with mindfulness.

 

“Perceived stress can be altered by mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive-behavioural therapies and stress-reducing drugs. These interventions may postpone or even prevent an individual’s cognitive decline.” – Mindy Katz

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Ashton, N. J., Hye, A., Leckey, C. A., Jones, A. R., Gardner, A., Elliott, C., … Marchant, N. L. (2017). Plasma REST: a novel candidate biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease is modified by psychological intervention in an at-risk population. Translational Psychiatry, 7(6), e1148–. http://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2017.113

 

Abstract

The repressor element 1-silencing transcription (REST) factor is a key regulator of the aging brain’s stress response. It is reduced in conditions of stress and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which suggests that increasing REST may be neuroprotective. REST can be measured peripherally in blood plasma. Our study aimed to (1) examine plasma REST levels in relation to clinical and biological markers of neurodegeneration and (2) alter plasma REST levels through a stress-reduction intervention—mindfulness training. In study 1, REST levels were compared across the following four well-characterized groups: healthy elderly (n=65), mild cognitive impairment who remained stable (stable MCI, n=36), MCI who later converted to dementia (converter MCI, n=29) and AD (n=65) from the AddNeuroMed cohort. REST levels declined with increasing severity of risk and impairment (healthy elderly>stable MCI>converter MCI>AD, F=6.35, P<0.001). REST levels were also positively associated with magnetic resonance imaging-based hippocampal and entorhinal atrophy and other putative blood-based biomarkers of AD (Ps<0.05). In study 2, REST was measured in 81 older adults with psychiatric risk factors for AD before and after a mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention or an education-based placebo intervention. Mindfulness-based training caused an increase in REST compared with the placebo intervention (F=8.57, P=0.006), and increased REST was associated with a reduction in psychiatric symptoms associated with stress and AD risk (Ps<0.02). Our data confirm plasma REST associations with clinical severity and neurodegeneration, and originally, that REST is modifiable by a psychological intervention with clinical benefit.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537638/

Meditation Can Reduce the Age-Associated Degeneration of the Brain

Meditation Can Reduce the Age-Associated Degeneration of the Brain

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“The brain begins to decline in the 20s, and continues to decrease in volume and weight through old age. Meditation, in addition to boosting emotional and physical well-being at any time in life, may be an effective way to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as help stave off some of the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging. The strategy is free, and it comes with no side effects.”Carolyn Gregoire

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume and activity of the brain as the years go by.

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve 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 and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Reduced age-associated brain changes in expert meditators: a multimodal neuroimaging pilot study.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5578985/, Chételat and colleagues recruited expert meditators with at least 10 years of experience and a total of at least 15,000 hours of meditation practice and age matched meditation naïve controls. They also included non-meditators at a wide range of ages, 20-87 years. They all underwent scanning of the brain with either Positron Emission Tomography (PET) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). They were measured for verbal fluency, episodic memory, short-term memory, and working memory, processing speed and executive functions, frequency of participation in leisure activities before 30 and from 30 to 65 years, and the highest level of occupation reached, adherence to Mediterranean diet, sleep quality and sleep disturbance.

 

They found that the older the meditation naïve participants the lower the volume of the brain gray matter and the lower the brain metabolism. Hence, they demonstrated, as have many others, age related degeneration of the brain. On the other hand, the expert meditators had significantly greater brain gray matter volume and metabolic activity than the age matched controls in the bilateral ventromedial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, and posterior cingulate cortex /precuneus. All of the expert meditators were over 60 yet their brain volumes were in the range of meditation naïve controls in their 30s and 40s.

 

These are remarkable results that suggest that large amounts of meditation practice can help to preserve the brain countering age related decline. The amount of meditation performed by these expert meditators is so high as to be unrealistic for use with the general population. Fortunately, other research suggests that the elderly brain changes positively in response to much lower amounts of mindfulness practice. So, mindfulness training may well be a feasible practice to protect the brains of seniors from further deterioration.

 

So, use meditation to reduce the age-associated degeneration of the brain

 

“A growing body of research supports the immediate benefits of meditation, such as reduced stress and anxiety levels, lower blood pressure, and enhanced happiness. Studies on mindfulness interventions show these effects are common in as few as eight weeks. While these initial perks may be reason enough for us to practice, meditation’s positive impact appears to be even more far-reaching, potentially adding years to our lives and improving cognitive function well into old age.” – Rina Deshpande

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Chételat, G., Mézenge, F., Tomadesso, C., Landeau, B., Arenaza-Urquijo, E., Rauchs, G., … Lutz, A. (2017). Reduced age-associated brain changes in expert meditators: a multimodal neuroimaging pilot study. Scientific Reports, 7, 10160. http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-07764-x

 

Abstract

Aging is associated with progressive cerebral volume and glucose metabolism decreases. Conditions such as stress and sleep difficulties exacerbate these changes and are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Meditation practice, aiming towards stress reduction and emotion regulation, can downregulate these adverse factors. In this pilot study, we explored the possibility that lifelong meditation practice might reduce age-related brain changes by comparing structural MRI and FDG-PET data in 6 elderly expert meditators versus 67 elderly controls. We found increased gray matter volume and/or FDG metabolism in elderly expert meditators compared to controls in the bilateral ventromedial prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex, insula, temporo-parietal junction, and posterior cingulate cortex /precuneus. Most of these regions were also those exhibiting the strongest effects of age when assessed in a cohort of 186 controls aged 20 to 87 years. Moreover, complementary analyses showed that these changes were still observed when adjusting for lifestyle factors or using a smaller group of controls matched for education. Pending replication in a larger cohort of elderly expert meditators and longitudinal studies, these findings suggest that meditation practice could reduce age-associated structural and functional brain changes.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5578985/

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

Protect the Aging Brain with Meditation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“long-term engagement in mindfulness meditation may enhance cognitive performance in older adults, and that with persistent practice, these benefits may be sustained. That’s great news for the millions of aging adults working to combat the negative effects of aging on the brain.” B. Grace Bullock

 

Human life is one of constant change. We revel in our increases in physical and mental capacities during development, but regret their decreases during aging. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline in every system in the body, the brain included. Starting in the 20s there is a progressive decrease in the volume of the brain as we age.

 

The nervous system is a dynamic entity, constantly changing and adapting to the environment. It will change size, activity, and connectivity in response to experience. These changes in the brain are called neuroplasticity.  Over the last decade neuroscience has been studying the effects of contemplative practices on the brain and has identified neuroplastic changes in widespread area. and have found that meditation practice appears to mold and change the brain, producing psychological, physical, and spiritual benefits. In addition, they have been able to investigate various techniques that might slow the process of neurodegeneration that accompanies normal aging. They’ve 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 and yoga have been found to degenerate less with aging than non-practitioners.

 

In today’s Research News article “Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/, Kurth and colleagues review and summarize the published research literature on the neuroprotective effects of meditation in the elderly. They discuss the ideas that the aging based deterioration of the brain is due to a number of processes, including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity and that meditation appears to effect all of these processes.

 

There has accumulated evidence that meditation protects against age related decline at the molecular genetic level. As we age the length of a DNA structures called the telomeres progressively shorten. It is thought that the shorter the telomeres get the more difficult it becomes for cells to replicate properly and thus leads to decline. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically, has been shown to reduce the shortening of the telomeres with aging. Kurth and colleagues speculate that this is one mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from age related decline.

 

As we age the natural inflammatory response that normally occurs to protect against infection begins to increase in general and lose its specificity to fighting particular diseases, pathogens, and injuries. It becomes more widespread damaging normal tissues. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to reduce inflammatory responses. It seems reasonable that this is another mechanism by which meditation protects the body from age related decline.

 

Stress is present throughout life. But if it is too intense or prolonged the biological responses to stress begin to damage the body. These stress induced changes are similar to age related deterioration. Stress effects may accumulate over time. Hence, the older we get the greater the total stress induced damage. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to improve emotion regulation and to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. This is hypothesized to be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain from deterioration with aging.

 

Neuroplasticity is a change in the size and connectivity of brain structures as they are exercised over a prolonged period of time. Mindfulness training in general and meditation specifically has been shown to produce neuroplastic changes in the brain, increasing the size and connectivity of brain structures. This process would tend to counteract brain degeneration with aging and may be another mechanism by which meditation protects the brain during aging.

 

Hence there has accumulated evidence that meditation reduces the deterioration of the brain with aging. It appears to do so by altering a number of different mechanisms including changes in the DNA telomeres, inflammation, stress, and neuroplasticity. This protection of the brain may be responsible to the ability of meditation to reduce the decline in mental abilities that occur with aging. This would tend to make aging a more benign process.

 

So, protect the aging brain with meditation.

 

We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating. Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.” – Florian Kurth

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kurth, F., Cherbuin, N., & Luders, E. (2017). Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 860. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00860

 

Abstract

Over the last decade, an increasing number of studies has reported a positive impact of meditation on cerebral aging. However, the underlying mechanisms for these seemingly brain-protecting effects are not well-understood. This may be due to the fact, at least partly, that systematic empirical meditation research has emerged only recently as a field of scientific scrutiny. Thus, on the one hand, critical questions remain largely unanswered; and on the other hand, outcomes of existing research require better integration to build a more comprehensive and holistic picture. In this article, we first review theories and mechanisms pertaining to normal (brain) aging, specifically focusing on telomeres, inflammation, stress regulation, and macroscopic brain anatomy. Then, we summarize existing research integrating the developing evidence suggesting that meditation exerts positive effects on (brain) aging, while carefully discussing possible mechanisms through which these effects may be mediated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/

Improve Well-Being in the Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Well-Being in the Elderly with Tai Chi

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Practising the ancient martial art of Tai Chi is so beneficial to elderly people’s health that it should be “the preferred mode of training”, according to scientists.” – The Telegraph

 

We celebrate the increasing longevity of the population. But, aging is a mixed blessing. The aging process involves a systematic progressive decline of the body and the brain. Every system in the body deteriorates including motor function with a decline in strength, flexibility, and balance. It is inevitable. In addition, many elderly experience withdrawal and isolation from social interactions. There is some hope as there is evidence that these declines can be slowed. For example, a healthy diet and a regular program of exercise can slow the physical decline of the body with aging. Also, contemplative practices such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi or qigong have all been shown to be beneficial in slowing or delaying physical and mental decline.

 

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. Only recently though have the effects of Tai Chi practice been scrutinized with empirical research. But, it has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation and increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream. Because Tai Chi is not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and is safe, having no appreciable side effects, it is appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. Tai Chi has been shown to help the elderly improve attentionbalance, reducing fallsarthritiscognitive functionmemory, and reduce age related deterioration of the brain.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of tai chi qigong on psychosocial well-being among hidden elderly, using elderly neighborhood volunteer approach: a pilot randomized controlled trial.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5221552/, Chan and colleagues recruited “hidden elderly” participants, who were over 60 years of age and did not participate in any social activities. They were randomly assigned to either a control condition which received usual care or to receive Tai Chi practice for 60 minutes, twice a week for 3 months and were encouraged to practice at home for 30 minutes daily. They were measured before and after the 3-month practice period and 3 months later for their social network, social support, loneliness, mental health, self-esteem, and health quality of life.

 

They found compared to baseline and the control group that the group that practiced Tai Chi had significant improvements in loneliness, social support, and their physical quality of life that persisted for the three month follow-up period. There were no adverse events and the participants indicated that they were pleased with the practice. Hence, practicing Tai Chi was safe, acceptable, and effective; significantly improving the social, psychological, and physical conditions of the “hidden elderly.”

 

It is not clear that Tai Chi practice per se produced the benefits. Since the practice was twice a week in a group condition, these individuals who did not participate in social activities prior to the study, were thrust into a social context as a prerequisite for participation. Hence, the improvement in their social condition and their loneliness may be simply due to the required social participation. In future research, there needs to be a control condition with comparable social participation to ascertain if Tai Chi practice or simply social participation was responsible for the improvements.

 

Regardless of whether Tai Chi was responsible or not, getting the “hidden elderly” out of their isolated situation and engaging in social activities is important for their psychological and physical well-being. Tai Chi is safe and acceptable for the elderly, is a light exercise, can be practiced virtually anywhere at little of no cost, and promotes social engagement. So, it would seem to be an almost ideal vehicle to promote the well-being of the elderly.

 

So, improve well-being in the elderly with Tai Chi.

 

“With its integrative approach that strengthens the body while focusing the mind, tai chi addresses a range of physical and mental health issues—including bone strength, joint stability, cardiovascular health, immunity, and emotional well-being. Tai chi is especially useful for improving balance and preventing falls—a major concern for older adults.” – Stephanie Watson

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Chan, A. W., Yu, D. S., & Choi, K. (2017). Effects of tai chi qigong on psychosocial well-being among hidden elderly, using elderly neighborhood volunteer approach: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 12, 85–96. http://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S124604

 

Abstract

Purpose

To test the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of a tai chi qigong program with the assistance of elderly neighborhood volunteers in strengthening social networks and enhancing the psychosocial well-being of hidden elderly.

Patients and methods

“Hidden elderly” is a term used to describe older adults who are socially isolated and refuse social participation. This pilot randomized controlled trial recruited 48 older adults aged 60 or above who did not engage in any social activity. They were randomized into tai chi qigong (n=24) and standard care control (n=24) groups. The former group underwent a three-month program of two 60-minute sessions each week, with the socially active volunteers paired up with them during practice. Standard care included regular home visits by social workers. Primary outcomes were assessed by means of the Lubben social network and De Jong Gieveld loneliness scales, and by a revised social support questionnaire. Secondary outcomes were covered by a mental health inventory and the Rosenberg self-esteem scale, and quality of life by using the 12-Item Short Form Health Survey. Data was collected at baseline, and at three and six months thereafter.

Results

The generalized estimating equations model revealed general improvement in outcomes among participants on the tai chi qigong program. In particular, participants reported a significantly greater improvement on the loneliness scale (B=−1.32, 95% confidence interval [CI] −2.54 to −0.11, P=0.033) and the satisfaction component of the social support questionnaire (B=3.43, 95% CI 0.10–6.76, P=0.044) than the control group.

Conclusion

The pilot study confirmed that tai chi qigong with elderly neighborhood volunteers is a safe and feasible social intervention for hidden elderly. Its potential benefits in improving social and psychological health suggest the need for a full-scale randomized controlled trial to reveal its empirical effects.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5221552/