Meditation, at its very root, involves engineering the mind to take it to a more desirable place than it would naturally go given other circumstances.
Outside influencers are filtered out, and the mind bypasses the many stressors pulling at its fabric.
So can meditation actually slow the effects of cognitive decline? Many researchers think so.
In a seven-year study published in Medical News Today — and endorsed by the Dalai Lama — authors concluded that meditation can enhance mental abilities and protect against age-related cognitive decline.
But how exactly?
Meditation increases blood flow.
Alzheimer’s patients display decreased levels of cerebral blood flow in certain areas of the brain. And this lack of sufficient blood flow contributes to the death of brain tissue and further cognitive decline.
Meditation has shown the ability to increase blood flow to the brain and ward off such neurodegeneration.
A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed significant memory improvement among patients exhibiting cognitive decline after eight weeks of practicing a type of meditation known as Kirtan Kriya.
Meditation reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
Fear and stress release cortisol, a steroid hormone. High levels of cortisone have demonstrated a possible link to increased risks for Alzheimer’s disease.
This was evident in a 2017 study that took place over a six-year period, where adults with high cortisol levels fared worse on memory tasks than those with low cortisol.
Meditation improves concentration.
Concentration meditation is a form of meditation that trains the mind to focus on one object for a prolonged period of time with the goal of improving one’s attention.
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a study comparing the brains of experienced meditators to more novice ones and found that the expert meditators had more activity in the areas of the brain related to attentiveness and response.
Meditation increases cortical thickness and gray matter.
The outer layer of the cerebellum is called the cerebral cortex and is made up of gray matter.
The cerebral cortex is associated with memory and decision-making, and the thickness (and thus the strength) of its matter decreases with age.
A study published in 2015 found that the decline of gray matter in those who meditated did so at a much slower pace than in those who did not practice meditation.
Meditation minimizes “brain age.”
The brain shrinks as we age due to a loss of its connective tissue. This shrinkage affects memory, function and emotional regulation.
But research from UCLA’s School of Medicine shows that long-term meditators have higher concentrations of brain tissue and as a result, their brains were almost a full decade younger in age.
How Seniors Can Get Involved in Meditation?
Meditation can be performed practically anywhere, but a novice will want to learn the proper way to meditate before setting out on their own.
There are a number of options for seniors to learn how to meditate:
- Senior centers and community centers often have meditation classes available.
- You can receive expert meditation guidance right in your own home with live online instruction.
- SilverSneakers programs sometimes have yoga and/or meditation courses available to members.
If you’re concerned about cognitive decline, consider giving meditation a try and turn back the clock on your brain.
Author Bio: Christian Worstell is a health and lifestyle writer living in Raleigh, NC.