Are you looking for a simple way to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease? If so, look no further: performing deep breathing exercises may be the answer.
Studies have shown that regular practice of certain breathing techniques can interact with the nervous system to help bolster mental resilience and maintain an ideal level of cognizance in adults, which could lower your chances of developing one of the most severe age-related conditions known to man. Read on to uncover how something as easy as deep breaths has been proven to sharpen cognitive abilities in aging adults and contribute significantly towards achieving a healthier life!
As we age, our bodies have a harder time sliding between the sympathetic nervous system and its partner, the parasympathetic nervous system. Often referred to as the “rest and digest” part of our system, the parasympathetic nervous system allows us to calm down, digest food easily, and sleep soundly. When the body is in this state, the variation of heartbeats is greater.
This is the information that is helping researchers learn about our ability to access our parasympathetic nervous system and, thus, our heart rate variation.
The First to Discover
A new study published last month in the journal Scientific Reports was one of the first to discover how amyloid beta levels can be reduced through breathing exercises. By following simple breath work, researchers believe the peptides in the blood associated with Alzheimer’s disease can be lowered.
For the study, participants were asked to do biofeedback exercises twice a day for 20 minutes at a time. Heart monitors were attached to participants’ ears and connected to a laptop provided by researchers. Half of the group was instructed to think of calm images such as a beach scene, a park walk, or music they liked. While they relaxed, they were told to keep an eye on their heart rate, as displayed on the laptop screen and try to make it as steady as possible.
The other group was told to follow a breathing rhythm with a pacer on the laptop screen. They also monitored their heart rates, which rose in peaks as they inhaled and dipped down to baseline as they exhaled. Their goal was to increase the breathing-induced oscillations in their heart rate.
Researchers took blood samples from all participants before the experiment and again after four weeks of biofeedback training. The plasma of participants from both groups was examined for amyloid beta peptides.
Accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain due to increased production and/or decreased clearance is believed to be the root cause of Alzheimer’s disease. This protein clumps together and forms plaques, disrupting communication between brain cells and causing them to die. As more plaque accumulates, cognitive function declines, leading to memory loss, difficulty with language and reasoning, and an inability to perform even simple tasks.
For this study, researchers found that plasma levels in the group who breathed slowly with a pacer decreased.
“Now researchers want to figure out why the peptides decrease when HRV increases,” said Jungwon Min, lead author of the study. “Is it because fewer peptides are being produced? Or because the body clears them out better? Or some combination of both?”
Although more research is needed to understand this connection between breathing and amyloid plaque fully, this study adds to the mounting evidence that there may be alternative therapies for reducing cognitive decline. Regularly practicing slow-paced breathing may be a low-cost and low-risk way to reduce plasma levels and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous studies have found that sleep deprivation and stress can increase amyloid beta levels, but that it is more challenging to decrease amyloid beta with behavioral interventions.
While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, understanding the relationship between amyloid beta and the disease process is crucial in developing effective treatments and prevention strategies.
Reducing the Risk of Cognitive Decline
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