UCLA study reveals how yoga reduces stress for caregivers of people with dementia (& everyone else!)

Cats know the secret to stress reduction & health (image via theskinnyonmyjeans.com)

That relaxed, chilled, stress-free feeling you’ve noticed after practicing yoga? While the effects have been well-documented by science, a new study from UCLA gives new insight into how yoga helps reduce stress levels, particularly in people who care for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The study revealed that practicing Kirtan Kriya Meditation (a Kundalini Yoga chanting practice) just 12 minutes daily for eight weeks led to a reduction in the biological mechanisms responsible for increasing the immune system’s inflammation response. Inflammation can contribute to a multitude of chronic health problems.This is good news for the five million Americans who currently provide care for someone with dementia. It’s also positive news for the rest of us who just happen to live stressful, modern lives.

As the U.S. population continues to age over the next two decades, [lead researcher, Dr. Helen] Lavretsky noted, the prevalence of dementia and the number of family caregivers who provide support to these loved ones will increase dramatically.

“We know that chronic stress places caregivers at a higher risk for developing depression,” she said “On average, the incidence and prevalence of clinical depression in family dementia caregivers approaches 50 percent. Caregivers are also twice as likely to report high levels of emotional distress.”

What’s more, many caregivers tend to be older themselves, leading to what Lavretsky calls an “impaired resilience” to stress and an increased rate of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

Research has suggested for some time that psychosocial interventions like meditation reduce the adverse effects of caregiver stress on physical and mental health. However, the pathways by which such psychosocial interventions impact biological processes are poorly understood. [via UCLA Newsroom]