Aging brains begin to exhibit decline by the time we are in our mid-to-late 20s. Yep. That’s right. Scientists begin seeing a decrease in the volume and weight of a brain and the brain begins to lose some of its functional abilities when we still think we are on top of the world and have our whole futures in front of us. Researchers began looking at meditation in 2005 and found a strong correlation between those who meditate and a less prominent decline of gray matter. This most current study examined the link between age and brain atrophy and whether an approach such as meditation could ultimately enhance cerebral health. Researchers at UCLA looked at control subjects between the ages of between 24 and 77 and saw a gradual reduction in function and an increased risk of mental illness and neurodegenerative disease. When they looked at 50 people who had meditated for years and 50 who didn’t they found that while both groups exhibited a loss of gray matter as they aged, amongst those that meditated, the decline was less for the meditators than it was for those that didn’t meditate. What surprised the researchers was that while they expected some improvement for those that meditated, what they didn’t expect was the widespread effect that they got. Meditators saw an effect that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.
While it might seem like you’d have to have years of meditation experience before you achieved any positive effects from it, in fact another studyfound that people began to see the value of meditation after only four day of training for only 20 minutes each day. In that study, a control group listened to an audio book. Both groups improved but the meditation group improved significantly on cognitive measures especially on timed cognitive tests that caused stress.
Beyond improving cognition, meditation has proven effects on emotional health; increased social connectedness, positive emotions, life satisfaction, and immune function; and decreased pain and inflammation. Here’s a list of 76 meditation benefits.
A poll in 2006 looked at the top aging concerns of Americans. It’s probably no surprise that losing their mental capacity topped the list. For quite a while, doctors believed that there was little anyone could do to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and that getting or not getting the disease was more a matter of the luck of the draw and good genetics. We know now that there are many things you can do to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, slow down or even reverse the deterioration process. Therefore, while researchers haven’t found a pharmaceutical solution to the disease, we have options and steps we can take to postpone or prevent the disease on our own. One of the biggest steps we can take is to have professionals on our health team that doesn’t see Alzheimer’s disease as part of the normal stages of aging and is willing to do the work necessary to help us achieve our best and healthies self. One professional that might make sense for you is to consider hiring a concierge doctor. Concierge physicians go beyond believing that their patients should be “normal” and look for ways to help them be optimal. It’s that kind of change in thinking that will help you achieve your own idea of “best health.” If you need a list of concierge doctors for your area, please contact our office and request a list of private pay physicians.