Daily Exercise and Meditation, Plus a Healthy Diet, Could Reverse Early Alzheimer’s Disease

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Some people with mild cognitive impairment or early dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease may be able to improve their brain function and daily lives by radically overhauling their lifestyle habits, a small study suggests.

The study randomly assigned 51 people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease to either stick to their usual routines for 20 weeks or make intensive changes to adopt four new habits:

  • Eat a minimally processed, plant-based diet with lots of whole foods and limited refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and sweeteners
  • Practice moderate intensity aerobic exercise and strength training for at least 30 minutes daily
  • Devote one hour daily to stress management activities like meditation, stretching, and breathing exercises
  • Attend three hour-long group therapy sessions per week

At the start of the study, and again at the end, participants completed four different cognitive function tests. Overall, the intervention group (those who overhauled their lifestyle) significantly improved their cognitive function on three tests, and made gains on the fourth test, even though the results weren’t as strong. In addition, one test found significantly less disease progression.

Participants in the control group that didn’t make any lifestyle changes scored worse on all four cognitive function tests by the end of the study, according to results published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy.

‘New Hope’ for People With Alzheimer’s Disease

“I’m cautiously optimistic and very encouraged by these findings, which may empower many people with new hope and new choices,” lead study author Dean Ornish, MD, founder and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of San Francisco, said in a statement.

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