Mindfulness & healthy aging
From the genetic to the cellular, and cognitive to the interpersonal, mindfulness has been found to support healthy aging.
Telomeres are protein caps located at the end of our chromosomes. Shortened telomeres are associated with exposure to chronic stress and accelerated aging. For those who practice mindfulness, however, telomere length is preserved or can increase and is comparable to younger persons' telomeres.
Every decade after age 40, our brains lose 5% of their mass. However brain scans of meditators demonstrate thickening of an area of the brain known as cerebral cortex (which is where functioning like planning and memory are located). Another recent study also found that meditators (with an average age of 50) performed as well as 24-year olds on attention related tests. Other research has shown improved performance on tests related to memory and information processing.
Feelings of loneliness negatively impact our health. As we age, loneliness has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease and developing Alzheimers. A study of adults age 55-85 found that after taking an 8-week mindfulness meditation course, participants reported feeling less lonely, with a correlated decrease in inflammatory markers associated with heart disease.
That we age is inevitable but how we age is not.