Every year there are 10 million new cases of dementia. This debilitating condition affects your memory, motor skills, communication and ability to live independently. However, it’s also a normal part of aging, with those crossing the threshold into their 70s and 80s at the highest risk of developing the first signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
READ MORE: 5 Ways To Keep Calm When Life Gets Hectic
However, turns out there may be a super-effective and ultra-simple way to ward off this prevalent disease. A new study published in Scientific Reports found that daily breathing exercises could help shield you from Alzheimer’s in your golden years.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects the brain’s ability to function properly. It is the most common cause of dementia, a group of symptoms that include memory loss, difficulties with language and communication, and changes in mood and behaviour.
The disease is characterised by the accumulation of abnormal proteins in the brain, which leads to the death of brain cells and the shrinking of brain tissue. As the disease progresses, individuals with Alzheimer’s may experience significant impairments in their ability to carry out daily activities, such as eating, dressing and grooming themselves. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are treatments available that can help manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.
How Breathwork Helps
As part of their study into the effects of breathwork on dementia, researchers tasked participants in their study to do 20 minutes of deep breathing, twice a day, for around a month. They rigged up heart monitors to gather data on the effects of the practice. Participants were divided into two groups with one asked to think calming thoughts and the other told to sync up the pace of their breathing with a steady rhythm from a pacer.
While we already of plenty of findings that show that breathing exercises (like meditation) can help reduce stress, stop depression in its tracks, ease anxiety, and even slow down your heart rate; this new study has lifted the lid on a whole new avenue of benefits to this Zen-approved practice. Researchers noted that the breathing exercises resulted in a significant drop in amyloid-beta peptides and tau protein in the participants’ bloodstreams. Both compounds have been linked to Alzheimer’s, with some believing they are the culprits behind this debilitating disease.
The researchers speculate that this decrease in levels of these chemicals could have something to do with our “fight or flight” response, but that more research is needed to get to the root of why breathwork might be an effective prevention tool.
Breathe Easy. Playing Videogames Might Help, Too
Videogames get a bad rap, but whether you’re a console convert or PC elitist, there are a few unexpected perks to your daily gaming sessions. A study from the University of Montreal found that when older people (ages 55 to 75) logged regular gaming sessions they were able to increase the amount of grey matter—a tissue that helps with memory—in their hippocampus after just six months. Those who didn’t boot up the consoles showed grey matter loss.