While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, recent research suggests that yoga and meditation may play a role in prevention and improving symptoms of the progressive disease, which is the most common form of dementia (and also the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.) Last year, in the first study to suggest that memory loss may be reversed, yoga and meditation were included as part of a complex, 36-point therapeutic program. Another study found that yoga and meditation may help Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their caregivers socialize and feel better.
Julianne Moore graciously pointed out while accepting the Oscar for Best Actress last night, movies are about more than just glamorous stars and “who” they wore. In Moore’s case, her Academy Award-winning role as a linguistics professor coping with early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice helped call attention to an incurable disease.
“I’m so happy, I’m thrilled actually, that we were able to hopefully shine a light on Alzheimer’s disease,” she said. “So many people with this disease feel isolated and marginalized, and one of the wonderful things about movies is it makes us feel seen and not alone. And people with Alzheimer’s deserve to be seen so that we can find a cure.”
“Chronic stress and related stress hormones could negatively affect brain structures important for memory and cognition, like the hippocampus. Chronic stress is also associated with inflammation in the body and in the central nervous system/brain that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders of aging. Yoga can reduce stress hormones and inflammatory factors, and teach an individual over time how to cope more effectively and protect the body from going through the stress response,” says Helen Lavretsky, M.D., M.S., director of the late-life mood, stress, and wellness research program at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. She notes that the younger you are when you start practicing yoga and meditation, the better.