00:04:36 – Reading time. Meditation can be said to be the final ‘Fountain of Youth’ method for reducing cellular aging.
However, most people only know one type of ‘age’. So, it is the years you’ve lived and it is called chronological age. Further, the second lesser-known type of age is our biological age. It is the age of how old your cells seem to be based on their condition. Consequently, biological age is calculated based on many factors. Some of them are your chronological age, your auditory and visual performance, your blood pressure, genetics, lifestyle, diseases, and other conditions. Unfortunately, we all chronologically age in the same timeframe – 1 more year each passing birthday. We cannot change this. But for the biological age, we can do a lot to help slow down our cells’ aging!
Therefore, in this article, we’ll explore some studies and the claim – can meditation reverse aging?
How does our body age?
Tissues are made up of cells. And these cells go under massive changes as we age. They become bigger and bigger. Subsequently, also their division and multiplication become more difficult. Additionally, pigments and fatty substances are housed inside these cells. As they increase more and more, the cells start to lose their proper functions over time. (1)
All our cells have nuclear DNA. So, the DNA helps code the cells. Moreover, it tells the cell how to function, grow, and replicate. (2) Cells continue to form, die, and reproduce. The DNA in our chromosomes have telomeres. These telomeres are protective proteins. Certainly, they are one of the major players involved in the aging process.
So, these telomeres keep getting shorter and shorter each time the cells replicate. Thus, these telomeres unavoidably become so short that they have consequences such as losing their ability to replicate properly. Therefore, this leads to a large number of issues like diseases, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and more.
In short, the bad news is that these telomeres are ‘programmed for apoptosis or cell death. (3)
But on the other side, the good news is that with proper lifestyle habits, diet, and activities, you can reduce the shortening of telomeres. Or at least enable telomere attrition to delay diseases associated with age. (3)
Consequently, let’s see if meditation can help ‘extend the life’ of these telomeres.
How does Meditation help slow down the aging of Telomeres and extend them?
Firstly and foremost, meditation has countless benefits. Hence, it wouldn’t be surprising if one of them helps you slow down your biological age.
Secondly, meditation has been connected with decreased cognitive stress and positive states of mind, resulting in better telomere maintenance. (4)
Thirdly, telomere length has been linked to chronic stress exposure and depression. (5) Hence, meditation addresses these two issues. It becomes clear that meditation may really be quite effective for regulating telomeres.
Further, let’s take mindful meditation as an example. So, mindfulness meditation has been shown to help view struggles as challenges. It also reduces incoming ruminative thoughts and decreases stress arousal. Therefore, this translates into a positive mood. (5)
Meditation may increase telomere length. Additionally, meditation helps protect against cellular aging. Consequently, a shorter leukocyte telomere length can help predict if someone will suffer from dementia or any cognitive decline. (6)
Moreover, meditation has also been shown to reduce the circulating markers of inflammation. And the most apparent benefit of meditation is how much it helps you regulate your emotions. Furthermore, how it helps you develop healthier mental health. (6) Reduced cortisol levels mean fewer chances of triggering some adverse health conditions. Stress can activate them.
Studies have shown massive differences in stress levels between people who meditate and those who don’t. So, stress plays a significant part in regulating the brain’s aging. However, meditation can help promote a ‘healthier aging process.’ (6)
When estimating the brain age with automated pattern recognition, people who meditator had brains that appeared to be years younger than their counterparts. Certainly, this is one of the many studies that are causing researchers to believe that meditation may help slow down the brain’s degeneration. (6)
Research from the University of Zaragoza in Spain found that Zen meditators have longer telomeres than people of the same age and lifestyle. In fact, they found that meditators’ telomeres were longer by an average of 10%. (7)
A multimodal neuroimaging pilot study found increased gray matter volume in elders who meditated compared to people that don’t. (8)
In one study, 96 healthy people implemented yoga and meditation in their lives. After 12 weeks, significant improvements were observed at the cellular level. Therefore, yoga and meditation did significantly reduce the rate of cellular aging. (9)
In conclusion, meditation has many forms that may help extend the length of telomeres. Also, it helps slow down the shortening of them.
One study took 73 residents with a mean age of 81 years. Researchers split them into four groups. The first group had no treatment. While the other 3 groups received either transcendental meditation, mindfulness meditation, or a relaxation program. (10)
Therefore, the elders who practiced transcendental meditation improved the most. Mindfulness meditation followed that with transcendental meditation. But the mindfulness meditation improved the most, followed by transcendental meditation on control and word fluency. (10)
After three years, the elders who practiced transcendental meditation had a 100% survival rate! While the group that practiced mindfulness had 87.5% in comparison to the other groups. (10)
To sum it up, whichever meditation you choose be sure you will experience benefits. That is to say, experiment and see what you like most.
So can meditation reverse aging? ‘Reverse’ as in stop and roll back the years? No. But it can slow down aging. Consequently, some and current studies proved it.
(1). Medlineplus.gov. (2019). Aging changes in organs, tissues, and cells: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. [online] Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004012.htm#:~:text=All%20cells%20experience%20changes%20with,they%20begin%20to%20function%20abnormally . [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(2). Surprising Questions with Surprising Answers (2013). Why does every cell in our body contain DNA? [online] Science Questions with Surprising Answers. Available at: https://wtamu.edu/~cbaird/sq/2013/08/22/why-does-every-cell-in-our-body-contain-dna/#:~:text=Aside%20from%20red%20blood%20cells,grow%2C%20function%2C%20and%20reproduce . [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(3). Shammas, M.A. (2011). Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, [online] 14(1), pp.28–34. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3370421/ [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(4). Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J.T., Folkman, S. and Blackburn, E. (2009). Can Meditation Slow Rate of Cellular Aging? Cognitive Stress, Mindfulness, and Telomeres. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, [online] 1172(1), pp.34–53. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19735238/ [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(5). Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J.T., Folkman, S. and Blackburn, E. (2009). Can Meditation Slow Rate of Cellular Aging? Cognitive Stress, Mindfulness, and Telomeres. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, [online] 1172(1), pp.34–53. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057175/ [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(6). Kurth, F., Cherbuin, N. and Luders, E. (2017). Promising Links between Meditation and Reduced (Brain) Aging: An Attempt to Bridge Some Gaps between the Alleged Fountain of Youth and the Youth of the Field. Frontiers in Psychology, [online] 8. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5447722/ [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(7). Kingsland, J. (2016). Could meditation really help slow the ageing process? [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2016/mar/03/could-meditation-really-help-slow-the-ageing-process [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(8). Chételat, G., Mézenge, F., Tomadesso, C., Landeau, B., Arenaza-Urquijo, E., Rauchs, G., André, C., de Flores, R., Egret, S., Gonneaud, J., Poisnel, G., Chocat, A., Quillard, A., Desgranges, B., Bloch, J.-G., Ricard, M. and Lutz, A. (2017). Reduced age-associated brain changes in expert meditators: a multimodal neuroimaging pilot study. Scientific Reports, [online] 7(1). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5578985/ [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(9). Tolahunase, M., Sagar, R. and Dada, R. (2017). Impact of Yoga and Meditation on Cellular Aging in Apparently Healthy Individuals: A Prospective, Open-Label Single-Arm Exploratory Study. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, [online] 2017, pp.1–9. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5278216/ [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].
(10). CN;Langer, A. (2020). Transcendental meditation, mindfulness, and longevity: an experimental study with the elderly. Journal of personality and social psychology, [online] 57(6). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2693686/ [Accessed 24 Dec. 2020].