Meditation & A Spiritual Lifestyle May Preserve Cognitive Functions. By 2050, it is estimated that up to 152 million individuals worldwide may have Alzheimer’s disease (AD). There are currently no medications that have a significant beneficial effect on the prevention or reversal of cognitive decline. An increasing body of research indicates that addressing lifestyle and vascular risk factors improves general cognitive performance. A new review published by IOS Press in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease examines research that suggests spiritual fitness, a novel concept in medicine that emphasizes psychological and spiritual well-being, and Kirtan Kriya, a simple 12-minute meditative practice, may help reduce multiple risk factors for AD.
“The review’s central thesis is that committing to a brain longevity lifestyle, including spiritual fitness, is a critical component of aging Alzheimer’s disease-free,” explain authors Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD, Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, Tucson, AZ, USA, and Andrew B. Newberg, MD, Department of Integrative Medicine and Nutritional Sciences, Department of Radiology, Boston, MA, USA. “We hope this article inspires scientists, doctors, and patients to embrace this novel idea of spiritual fitness and include it into every multidomain approach for cognitive impairment prevention.”
Religious and spiritual activity has been shown to help sustain cognitive function as we age. The writers notice that spirituality is frequently encountered today outside the confines of organized religion and may be found within or apart from any religion. Spiritual fitness adds a new dimension to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease by integrating physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being. The authors discuss the research that has been conducted on the effects of these factors on brain function and cognition. Psychological well-being, for example, may help to minimize inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and disability. Notably, persons with a high “purpose in life” (PIL) score, a component of psychological well-being, were 2.4 times more likely to be free of AD than those with a low PIL score. Another study discovered that participants with higher PIL levels had improved cognitive performance and that PIL also protected those with pre-existing pathological problems, thereby reducing their decline.
Stress and stress management are under-discussed topics in Alzheimer’s disease prevention, despite the fact that there is substantial evidence that the physical, psychological, and emotional impacts of stress may increase the chance of developing AD. Kirtan Kriya (KK) is a 12-minute singing meditation in which four sounds, breathing, and repeated finger movements are used. It has been shown to have a variety of established impacts on stress, including improved sleep, decreased depression, and increased wellbeing. Additionally, it has been shown to improve blood flow to areas of the brain associated with cognitive and emotional regulation, as well as to enhance grey matter volume and decrease the ventricular size in long-term practitioners, implying that it may slow brain aging. The practice enhances cognition, reduces memory loss, and increases mood in healthy adults, caregivers, and those with cognitive decline, according to research.
The relationship between spiritual fitness and a person’s total physical and mental health is a subject of study in the developing science of neurotheology. Earlier research concentrated on developing models of which brain areas are impacted by spiritual practices such as meditation or prayer. Over the last two decades, neuroimaging and other physiological research examining the influence of meditation, spiritual practices, and mystical experiences have exploded in popularity. A neuroimaging study of KK discovered long-lasting brain effects, both during and after meditation. According to Dr. Khalsa and Dr. Newberg, neurotheological studies can aid in understanding how a practice like KK can result in more permanent changes in brain activity that promote spiritual wellness.
“Mitigate the substantial negative biochemical consequences of stress by meditation techniques in conjunction with the development of increased spiritual fitness may help reduce the incidence of AD. Small changes to one’s daily routine can make a world of difference in terms of preventing AD “Drs. Khalsa and Newberg bring the discussion to a close. “We are hopeful that this article may spur additional study on spiritual fitness and AD.”