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Anil Rajvanshi

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Can meditation help reduce Alzheimer's Disease?

Dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are diseases of the brain (DOB). They basically degenerate the nerves, attack central nervous system, make people forgetful and ultimately make them loose their memory completely so that they cannot recognize even their near and dear ones. DOB are generally old age diseases which mostly happen after the age of 60-65 though in some cases they can start as early as 40-45.

Present estimates are that 50 million people worldwide above the age of 65 years suffer from these debilitating diseases.

Many studies done by scientists have shown that intellectually active adults suffer less from these diseases as they age. And one of the better ways to increase mental faculties is by meditation. It allows us to focus on a single subject for a long time and increases the concentration and hence mental sharpness. A small article on this theme is at; http://www.nariphaltan.org/DOB.pdf

This idea is being posted at TED for wider debate and discussion.

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  • Jun 24 2013: At my ripe age of 68, I have the start of Alzheimer's disease and what I do is simple: I do hidden object games, jigsaw puzzles, read a lot, and work in my garden, when I am not doing my art work. A few post-it notes lying around doesn't hurt either.
    Many years ago I started working with Parkinson's clients. I drew a curved line on a blank piece of paper with a pencil and then gave pencil to my client & asked them to put pencil dots all along that curved line. Yup! As you would expect, there were dots all over the place, but over the course of three months, the dots followed that line almost perfectly. I then put a drafting pen in their hand to make the same dots with ink.
    In a very real sense, they were meditating. They were very focused on what they were doing.
    At the end of 6 months, each of my clients were given an artist brush & paints. The goal from the beginning was to help them become artists.
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      Jun 24 2013: Hi Gale,

      I am delighted that not only you are helping others but in this process you are helping yourself. That is true spirituality and part of mindful living.

      May your tribe increase.

      Cheers.
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      Jun 24 2013: Hi Gale, thank you for sharing this with all of us.

      To Alzheimer's patients, "variety is the spice of life"......literally.
      It is wonderful that you vary your activities and engage in different mental exercises.

      Learning a new thing each day, I have read, is very very good.

      There is still alot to be learned about Alzheimer's Disease.
      I personally receive Neurology Now magazine in my home, and read each issue.
      My dad has Parkinson's.

      Be Well Gale,
      Mary
      • Jun 24 2013: I am a very varied person and many different things perk my interest, usually in the field of science. So I can truly say, I learn many new things each day. It's keeping ahold of them that can be a pain in butt!
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          Jul 24 2013: I just wanted to pop in here before this conversation closed to wish you a happy day.

          It would have been nice if more individuals with in depth knowledge of the topic had participated.........but nevertheless I'm very thankful for the few words that were exchanged.

          Be Well Gale!!!

          You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

          Mary :)
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    Jun 24 2013: Have you done some research into the various sorts of mental activities that appear to be effective in reducing suffering from these degenerative diseases? I had thought that continuing to learn in a variety of areas including learning new physical skills such as dancing, learning languages, and exploring new ideas in areas in which one has had little experience are all positive activities for delaying or mitigating mental deterioration.
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      Jun 24 2013: Anything that allows you to focus your thoughts for a long time will help. That is meditation. The trick is to keep the interest high.

      Cheers.
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        Jun 24 2013: Yes, the trick is to keep the interest high.

        I read that even if you do brain/mind activities daily......you should include a variety of things....new things.....not the same kind of puzzle always, so that it really engages the mind, and you do not get bored.

        With Parkinson's, for example, there are adult centers that provide movement classes.
        The adults sit in chairs, music is played, and the instructor teaches the PD patient to move to the music....each time the music is different, with different beats. I have read that this is a kind of 'rewiring' the nervous system to learn new things.....and they have found that it helps alot.

        Neurology is a very interesting field.
        I will be following your conversation to see what else I may learn.

        Thank you Mr. Rajvanshi.
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        Jun 28 2013: 'Anything that allows you to focus your thoughts for a long time will help',I cannot understand it ,can you please explain to me,or expand your words? I'm much curious about this kind of stuff.Thanks
  • Jul 21 2013: There is not a "get out of jail free card", and the implications of such should not be implied, neither with any drug nor meditation either.

    There is more at play in these cases, one has to respect that it's the whole body one is talking about, and too often we think that each item (the brain in this case) can't be taken in isolation.

    The issues behind Alzheimer's, the causes, the role of prevention, the role of drugs, diet, none as of yet have been proved across a whole spectrum of sufferers.

    I'd like to say, as I would not want anyone to leave here thinking this is the solution, that far too much needs to be done and understood before that could ever be said.

    That said, if it's part of a holistic path that has been done for a long time, I can see no harm. But I feel regret if I didn't add in case there are sufferers or relatives of suffers that to think of this (meditation) is an instant cure all may well be misguided. This disease with all its complexities are still yet to be resolved.

    I know it maybe a complicated read, but it does show how "success" is never guaranteed what ever path one takes looking for some relief, and just how complicated Alzheimer is, let alone a cure-all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alzheimer%27s_disease
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    Jun 28 2013: It wouldn't surprise me if regular meditation helped with DOB.

    My personal "gut feeling" is that extended periods of worry contributes to dementia. Meditation is relaxation for the brain so should help to dispel worry.
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      Jun 28 2013: Interesting you should say this Heather....and hello!!

      A couple of years back an elderly friend went to the neurologist because she was constantly repeating herself and forgetting things.

      All the tests proved negative.

      Turns out she was depressed, and after investigating her depression, and dealing with it, her memory came back.

      Her family went from thinking she had a dementia, to realizing she was just depressed, and needed love and attention, and low dosage medication for a small amount of time.

      If left untreated....depression can wreak havoc, not only on the elderly, but on all of us.

      Our brain is very very interesting.
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        Jun 28 2013: Yes, interesting isn't it! My father was considered to have dementia towards the end of his life - he actually died of pneumonia. He had lead a physically and mentally healthy and active life - but after my mother left him he rapidly went down hill.

        The confusion between depression and dementia is lost on many people - worry and fear lead to depression and that leads to dementia. The brain is so sad it just gives up!

        Consigning elders to old folks homes is enough to make anyone depressed / demented in my opinion. We need to raise the status of elders and give them the honoured place in communities they deserve. Young people would behave better with more guidance from elders as well - so all of society would benefit.
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          Jun 29 2013: Very interesting observations from both you Heather and Mary. Care of elderly was the norm in old societies like India. Unfortunately with the breakdown of extended family and pressure on resources the youngsters are getting greedy and want the elderly out of their homes and lives.

          One of the helpful ways to still remain cheerful in old age has been to focus on spirituality and religion. Older people getting together for religious chantings is both socially and therapeutically helpful.
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          Jun 30 2013: Heather, yes.......the link between depression and dementia is an important one.

          You know, doctors recommend their elderly patients to stay active and have a social life, but they do not come out and speak honestly and sincerely about the consequences.

          Why is that??

          I am dumbfounded at the lack of communication out there. And, life's are at stake......as is the quality of life of millions of elderly individuals.

          I am always sharing my knowledge of depression and dementia with others.

          It is so sad what is happening Heather.
          So very sad. And society is the big loser.

          @Anil....thank you for your kind words.

          I think that what happens with depression is that the elderly stop their activities, even if these are spiritual ones. I think we humans need each other.
          We need someone to talk to, to share a cup of tea with, to laugh together, and yes, to cry together too. There are too many lonely elderly people thrown away like good-for-nothing..........and yet, we are also growing old........why don't young people think of this??
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      Jun 28 2013: This is very interesting Mr. Behl.

      So, I take it that Rajyog meditation cannot be taught?
      It is born in a person who is at a certain level of spiritual enlightment?

      Do you practice this type of meditation?

      How long do the individuals practicing this type of meditation live?
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          Jun 30 2013: Thank you for your reply Mr. Behl.
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    Jun 24 2013: Brain seems to be the most wonderful computer ever known....and the laziest. I think that all the activities able to cause into our brain the feeling about being 'kicked out and start to work' probably are good. Meditation may be very good, too. It demands a soft and deep mind effort.
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    Jun 24 2013: Here is one piece of research about activities that may either delay or help mitigate the effects of dementia: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1151037/

    What I found most interesting is that different activities that might appear to involve intellectual activity are not as effective as others or sometimes not effective at all. For example, reading, dancing, and doing puzzles are effective, according to research, while writing and participating in group discussions are not.

    I have thus far been unable to find published research about the value of meditation in treating Alzheimers that is not sponsored or funded by an organization specifically promoting meditation. I have seen research from UCLA that meditation reduces feelings of loneliness among caregivers of those with dementia.