How Mindfulness Can Reduce Risk for Alzheimer's and Heart Disease
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Loneliness has been shown to increase the risk of inflammatory illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's in the elderly. Most likely the mechanism for this link is the negative mood state. It would seem reasonable, then, that changing the mood state could lower the risk for these illnesses. Researchers at Carnegie-Mellon (Creswell, et al., 2012) have not only shown just that but also have determined the manner in which mindfulness lowers risk.
By examining the effects of an 8-week mindfulness training program on loneliness and the expression of the inflammatory genes, Creswell and colleagues demonstrated that resistance to inflammation increased. Specifically, the insults showed a decrease in the C-reactive protein that is implicated in heart disease and and a down-regulation of the NF-kB-related gene which is involved with inflammatory illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Although this research showed changes during an 8-week program, to significantly reduce your risk for these illnesses it is necessary to incorporate mindfulness practice into your daily routine. Read the articles and listen to the audios about understanding mindfulness
for more information. These materials are also compiled into a convenient eBook: The Mindful Attitude
Creswell, J.D., Irwin, M.R., Burklund, L.J., Lieberman, M.D., Arevalo, J.M.G., Ma, J., Breen, E.C. and Cole, S.W. (2012). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training Reduces Loneliness and Pro-inflammatory Gene Expression in Older Adults: A Small Randomized Controlled Trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 26, 1095-1101.
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