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Two Ways Yoga Could Benefit Alzheimer's

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Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) is a protein that protects brain neurons and is significantly reduced in people with Alzheimer's. Now for the first time, breakthrough research reveals NGF can be increased with yoga breathing.

Alzheimer's disease occurs in older adults and causes memory loss, confusion and eventually death. Approximately 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and the number is expected to rise to about 13.8 million people by 2050.

Although there is no known cure for Alzheimer's, the following research shows how yoga breathing and exercise may help prevent and treat the disease.

Yoga Breathing May Help Prevent Alzheimer's

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the International Psychogeriatrics Association found yoga breathing increases Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), a protein that is significantly reduced in people with Alzheimer's. NGF is a key protein in the nervous system that protects brain neurons. Recent clinical trials suggest NGF administration may help treat Alzheimer's.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina administered either Yoga Breathing or Attentional Control to 20 volunteers. Saliva samples obtained from the participants were used to measure NGF.

The Yoga Breathing group participated in a 20-minute yoga breathing program including 10 minutes of Om chanting and 10 minutes of a yoga breathing regulation exercise specified in an ancient yoga text called Thirumanthiram. The Attentional Control group read quietly for 20 minutes.

The researchers found 60 percent of the yoga group samples showed a marked increase in NGF levels.

"Being a systemic exercise, yogic breathing could be a powerful tool in preventing and/or managing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease," says study researcher Dr. Sundara Balasubramanian, biochemist and research assistant professor at Medical University of South Carolina.

Dr. Balasubramanian conducts yoga breathing workshops at various facilities including the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge in Charleston, South Carolina.

Watch Dr. Balasubramania's yoga breathing video here.

Chair Yoga Can Help Improve Alzheimer's

A 2014 study published in Research in Gerontology Nursing found chair yoga help improve balance and quality of life in Alzheimer's patients.

Researchers administered the Sit 'N Fit Chair Yoga Program to nine elderly patients with Alzheimer's for eight weeks. The twice weekly, 50-minute chair yoga program included 10 minutes of breathing exercises, 20 minutes of yoga postures in a chair, five minutes of balance postures and 10 minutes of relaxation and meditation.

The researchers found the participants had significantly improved balance. Furthermore, participants had variable improvements in walking and gait speed.

"Positive changes were seen across all physical measures," the study authors conclude.

To learn more about yoga breathing, meditation and chair yoga, download a free sample from Elaine Gavalas' book, THE YOGA MINIBOOK SERIES RENEWAL SET: The Yoga Minibook for Longevity, The Yoga Minibook for Stress Relief and The Yoga Minibook for Energy and Strength.

Elaine's the author of numerous books, articles and podcasts including "Yogi in the Kitchen", "The Yoga Minibook for Weight Loss", "The Yoga Minibook for Longevity", "The Yoga Minibook for Energy and Strength", "The Yoga Minibook for Stress Relief" and "Secrets of Fat-Free Greek Cooking." You can buy Elaine Gavalas' books here.

Watch Elaine's Chair Yoga videos here.

Elaine Gavalas is founder of GalenBotanicals.com, co-founder of SimplyCentered.com and an exercise physiologist, nutritionist, yoga therapist, weight management specialist, and healthy recipe developer. Visit ElaineGavalas.com for more of Elaine's books, podcasts, videos, articles, recipes, and natural remedies.