Doing This for 12 Minutes Each Day Slashes Your Dementia Risk, Study Says

Researchers say the habit, which takes less than a quarter of an hour, can keep you safe.

It's one thing to keep your body in the right shape as you age with proper diet and exercise, but it can be another thing entirely to keep your mind sharp in your later years. But it turns out that some daily habits could also boost cognitive health. In fact, research has found that doing this one activity for just 12 minutes a day can slash your risk of dementia or Alzheimer's disease way down. Read on to see what you could be doing to keep your brain sharp.

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Meditating for 12 minutes daily has been shown to help reduce the risk of dementia.

A group of adults are taking a break from working in an office. They are sitting crosslegged and meditating.

In a study that was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease in 2018, a team of scientists examined 60 older adults who had previously reported trouble with their memory during a 12 week period. Researchers then split the them into two groups, where they were instructed to either listen to music for 12 minutes or practice a 12-minute yoga meditation known as Kirtan Kriya daily. The meditation exercise involves repeating a series of chants and specific instructions—including singing, whispering, and hand gestures—for two minute intervals.

To assess physiological progress, the research team took bloodwork before and after the three-month study from participants to record indicators of Alzheimer's disease. Results showed that those who practiced meditation saw major changes in the biological markers that would put them at a higher risk for Alzheimer's disease by the end of the study, with the same participants reporting improvements in cognitive function, sleep, mood, and quality of life.

Some blood markers could help predict and treat Alzheimer's disease earlier.


Kim Innes, PhD, first author of the study and a professor at West Virginia University School of Public Health in Morgantown, and her team chose to assess blood samples for certain markers that are believed to predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease, including telomere length, telomerase activity, and the levels of specific beta-amyloid peptides. A reduction in telomere length and telomerase activity—which is an enzyme that protects the length of the "protective caps" on chromosomes—is often seen as a "marker of cellular aging."

The bloodwork results showed that while both groups saw a rise in the biomarkers, those in the meditation group saw a greater increase. The researchers also argue that such tests could help diagnose and treat Alzheimer's disease before symptoms such as confusion or memory loss develop.

Another review of research also found that Kirtan Kriya lowered the risk of dementia.

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This wasn't the first time a link between daily Kirtan Kriya practice and Alzheimer's risk has been made. A 2015 review of research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease discussed a study in which 37 caregivers of family members who have dementia were placed on similar regimens, with one control group listening to relaxing music for 12 minutes daily and the other meditating for 12 minutes.

According to the study's authors: "The outcome revealed that the [Kirtan Kriya] group had significantly lower levels of depressive symptoms, and greater improvement of mental health, well-being, and memory compared with the control group. Moreover, the [Kirtan Kriya] group showed a 43 percent improvement in telomerase activity, the largest ever reported, compared with 3.7 percent in the relaxation group."

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A combination of other factors shows that meditating may reduce other symptoms that increase the risk of dementia.

meditation can help you make fewer mistakes

Other studies highlighted in the review have found that meditation could help combat other symptoms that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, including reducing inflammation that is correlated to artery disease.

The 12-minute meditation also improved sleep quality and reduced stress.

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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