Want to ward off dementia? Follow Madonna's lead

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Emily Mongan
Emily Mongan

When it comes to research on preventing or improving dementia symptoms, often times the breakthrough “tip” is something you're already doing. Speak two languages? Put maple syrup on your pancakes? Snack on walnuts? Great news, you may be reducing your risk of developing dementia without even knowing it.

But if you really want to help cut your risks of cognitive impairment and memory loss, it might be time to go outside your comfort zone and take a few tips from the Material Girl herself.

A study published last week in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found a three-month yoga and meditation course to be more effective at minimizing the cognitive and emotional issues that often accompany dementia than traditional memory-boosting exercises like crossword puzzles and computer programs.

The form of meditation used in the study is called Kirtan Kriya, a combination of chanting, visualizations and hand movements that has been used in India for centuries as a way to stave off cognitive decline, according to the study's authors.

As for the yoga portion of the memory-boosting routine, you may have to look beyond the classes offered at a typical gym or yoga studio, according to the University of California, Los Angeles-based research team. Their study specifically looked into the memory and mood benefits of Kundalini yoga, a spirituality and awareness-focused form that's a favorite among celebrities such as Russell Brand, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and, yes, Madonna.

Kundalini emphasizes hand movements and visualizations that researchers say helps improve seniors' concentration, and decrease the anxiety and depression that often accompany dementia. The study also touts yoga's simple, safe and low-cost nature as a positive alternative to expensive drugs or therapy.

“Historically and anecdotally, yoga has been thought to be beneficial in aging well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit,” wrote Harris Eyre, the study's lead author. "We're converting historical wisdom into the high level of evidence required for doctors to recommend therapy to their patients."

So this double-whammy meditation and yoga course not only helps reduce dementia symptoms and cut back on treatment costs, but it also has a proven track record going back hundreds of years. All the more reason to throw on some yoga pants, make like Madonna and strike a pose.

Follow McKnight's Staff Writer Emily Mongan @emmongan.

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.