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Stress Reduction through Meditation May Aid in Slowing the Progression of Alzheimers Disease

BOSTON – It’s well known that the brains of meditators change, but it’s not entirely clear what those changes mean or how the changes might benefit the meditator. A new pilot study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center suggests that the brain changes associated with meditation and stress reduction may play an important role in slowing the progression of age-related cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

“We know that approximately 50 percent of people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment – the intermediate stage between the expected declines of normal aging and the more serious cognitive deterioration associated with dementia – may develop dementia within five years. And unfortunately, we know there are currently no FDA approved medications that can stop that progression,” says first author Rebecca Erwin Wells, MD, MPH, who conducted her research as a fellow in Integrative Medicine at BIDMC and Harvard Medical School, and is now at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We also know that as people age, there’s a high correlation between perceived stress and Alzheimer’s disease, so we wanted to know if stress reduction through meditation might improve cognitive reserve.”

The results of the study appeared online October 10 in Neuroscience Letters.

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