Yoga can help older women prevent Alzheimer’s disease, study finds

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A new study by UCLA Health has revealed that Kundalini yoga offers remarkable benefits for older women at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, showcasing improvements in cognitive functions and memory that are not observed with standard memory training exercises.

Published in Translational Psychiatry, this research adds to a series of studies spanning 15 years, investigating the impact of yoga and memory training on cognitive decline and dementia risk factors.

Under the leadership of Dr. Helen Lavretsky, the study explored the potential of Kundalini yoga as an early intervention to prevent cognitive deterioration and the progression towards Alzheimer’s disease in postmenopausal women.

Women face a higher risk of Alzheimer’s compared to men, due to factors such as longer lifespan, menopausal estrogen changes, and genetics.

The study involved over 60 women aged 50 and above, recruited from a UCLA cardiology clinic, who reported memory issues and had cerebrovascular risk factors.

They were divided into two groups: one participated in weekly Kundalini yoga sessions for 12 weeks, focusing on meditation and breathwork, while the other underwent memory enhancement training developed by the UCLA Longevity Center, which includes exercises aimed at improving long-term memory.

After the initial 12 weeks and a follow-up 12 weeks later, researchers evaluated the participants’ cognition, subjective memory, depression, and anxiety levels.

Blood samples were analyzed for aging markers and inflammatory molecules, both linked to Alzheimer’s, and some participants underwent MRIs to assess changes in brain matter.

The Kundalini yoga group experienced notable improvements, including enhanced subjective memory, prevention of brain matter decline, increased hippocampal connectivity (important for stress-related memories), and better expression of anti-inflammatory and anti-aging genes.

These benefits were not seen in the memory training group, although they did show improvements in long-term memory.

According to Dr. Lavretsky, the findings underscore yoga’s potential to reduce stress, bolster brain health, and combat inflammation, thus improving neuroplasticity.

While both groups maintained stable levels of anxiety, depression, stress, and resilience—likely due to their relatively healthy status—the study suggests that combining Kundalini yoga with memory training could offer a more holistic approach to enhancing cognitive function in older women.

Further research is needed to understand the long-term impact of Kundalini yoga on Alzheimer’s prevention or delay.

However, this study indicates that yoga, particularly when paired with memory exercises, could play a crucial role in maintaining cognitive health and quality of life for those at risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

If you care about Alzheimer’s, please read studies about the likely cause of Alzheimer’s disease , and new non-drug treatment that could help prevent Alzheimer’s.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about diet that may help prevent Alzheimer’s, and results showing some dementia cases could be prevented by changing these 12 things.

The research findings can be found in Translational Psychiatry.

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