How Tai Chi can help with Alzheimer's disease
A new study published last month is the first to discover a way that adults can reduce their risk of Alzheimers disease via breathing exercises that lower the levels in our blood of the peptides associated with the disease. The exercise was simple: inhale for a count of five, then exhale for a count of five. Do that for 20 minutes, twice a day, for four weeks. These brief breathing sessions had significant impacts: The levels of amyloid-beta peptides circulating in their blood decreased over the four weeks of the experiment.
That's because the way we breathe affects our heart rate, which affects our nervous system and the way our brain produces proteins and clears them away. When we are young—or older, but very fit—our body slides easily between the sympathetic nervous system and its partner, the parasympathetic nervous system. Sometimes known as the "rest and digest"; part of our system, the parasympathetic nervous system allows us to calm down, digest food easily, and sleep soundly. But as we age our ability to access our parasympathetic nervous system decreases dramatically. A 2020 study found that this access drops 80 percent between 20 and 60 years old.
Accumulation of amyloid beta peptide in the brain triggers the Alzheimer's disease process. In healthy adults who do not yet have signs of amyloid accumulation in the brain, higher levels of the two amyloid peptides in circulating blood predicts a greater risk of developing Alzheimer. In this study, plasma levels of both peptides decreased in the group who breathed slowly.
The study appears to be the first to find that behavioral interventions can reduce the level of amyloid peptides. It is known that sleep deprivation and stress can increase amyloid beta levels, but it has proved challenging to decrease amyloid beta with behavioral interventions. At least to date, exercise interventions have not worked. "Regularly practicing slow-paced breathing may be a low-cost and low-risk way to reduce plasma peptide levels and to keep
them low throughout adulthood".
Jungwon Min et al, Modulating heart rate oscillation affects plasma amyloid beta and tau levels in younger and older adults, Scientific Reports (2023)
Tai chi is well know for it's slow even breathing while performing a series of movements. Tai chi also helps with arthritis and fall prevention. You can try 2 free classes of tai chi by clicking on the link below.