Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, was first described in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer. Today it affects almost 36 million people with scientists working hard to find ways to prevent, treat and cure this terrible disease. Recent studies show that gene mutations play a role in the disease. In the last 20 years, research progress has appeared hopeful. The FDA approved the first Alzheimer’s combo drug Namzaric in 2014 and an array of other drugs are currently in development.
In the meantime, there is research that shows lifestyle changes can be beneficial for brain health and for reducing dementia risk. One lifestyle change that is easily attainable is adding yoga and meditation to one’s routine. A recent study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that a 3-month yoga and meditation course may reduce older adults’ risk of mild cognitive impairment. The study was led by Dr. Helen Lavretsky from UCLA’s Department of Psychiatry. Her team found that participants that practiced yoga and meditation showed greater improvement in visual-spacial memory skills than a group that only participated in memory enhancement training. The yoga-meditation group also did better with coping skills, stress resilience, and levels of anxiety and depression. After the participants’ brain activity was assessed, the researchers found that there were improvements in the verbal memory and visual-spatial memory that correlated with changed in brain connectivity.
These changes are important to note since mild cognitive impairment (MCI) has no currently approved meditations to treat it. MCI can also worsen over time and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias, therefore risk reduction is important in adults over the age of 65. Apart from yoga and meditation, adding mentally stimulating activities such as crossword puzzles is also seen as a way to reduce dementia risk. A few cups of coffee a day are also shown in studies to be good for the brain. A review of evidence found that moderate coffee consumption, between three to five cups a day, may reduce Alzheimer’s risk by up to 20 percent.