Heart Coherence Training May Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
In a recent report by the Alzheimer’s Association, it was revealed that over 6 million people in America are currently living with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). This devastating disease slowly erodes the minds of people we love and care for, but a ray of hope has emerged with a groundbreaking study that suggests heart coherence training developed by HeartMath Institute (HMI) may offer help to millions of individuals and potentially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Heart coherence refers to a specific rhythmic pattern of heart rate variability (HRV), which is the variation in the time intervals between consecutive heartbeats – the beat-to-beat changes. To achieve heart rhythm coherence, individuals are guided to consciously slow their breathing while engaging in specific techniques developed by HeartMath. These techniques typically involve slow-paced heart-focused breathing while self-generating positive emotions such as calmness, gratitude, appreciation, or compassion.
Groundbreaking Study Reveals Potential Intervention for Alzheimer’s
A groundbreaking study was published in Nature Scientific Reports on March 9, 2023. Dr. Mara Mather, the principal investigator of the study, utilized the emWave® Pro software and sensor developed by HeartMath for training participants in slow-paced coherence breathing and found that it had a profound impact. Participants were divided into two groups: one group practiced slow-paced breathing at the cardiovascular resonant frequency of 0.1 HZ, also known as the coherence frequency, to increase heart rate oscillations. The emWave Pro software and sensor provided real-time HRV biofeedback, enabling participants to optimize their breathing technique. The other group used individualized strategies to reduce heart rate oscillations.
Heart Coherence Breathing Impacted Alzheimer’s Biomarkers
Dr. Mara Mather commented on the study: "Our research indicates that slow-paced breathing exercises combined with HRV biofeedback training decrease plasma levels of Aβ. In healthy adults, higher plasma Aβ levels are associated with higher risk of AD as well as cardiovascular death."
Rollin McCraty, Ph.D., the director of research at the HeartMath Institute, expressed his excitement about the study’s findings, stating that they were remarkable and encouraging. He commended Dr. Mara Mather for conducting the research and expressed the institute’s desire to see further work in this area. McCraty stated, "The study demonstrated a significant link between increased heart coherence and reduced biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease, opening up avenues for further investigation. The precedent set by this initial research confirmed and validated the efficacy of HRV coherence in helping prevent or lessen the effects of this debilitating condition."
Pioneering Stress Reduction Techniques for Cognitive Health
Multiple research studies point to chronic stress as a significant contributor to cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s disease. As such, interventions focused on mitigating stress and enhancing emotional and mental well-being may help to preserve our cognitive faculties as we age. While breakthroughs in treating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s remain somewhat elusive, HeartMath is providing a beacon of hope. An earlier study titled "Precision Medicine Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease: Successful Pilot Project" also utilized HeartMath HRV coherence feedback technology for participants to manage stress as part of their intervention. This study, published in 2022 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, also reported promising results, demonstrating a reduction of Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms. HeartMath Institute has had an ongoing focus on optimal functioning research since its founding more than three decades ago. In the 1990s, its researchers made an important discovery: Intentionally invoking positive emotions is one of the fastest and most effective ways to reduce unhealthy stress. Emotions such as appreciation, care, compassion, and love have been shown to lower stress, increase heart coherence, and enhance cognitive functions, including memory and focus. HeartMath’s tools have also been found to help improve memory.
"Research has shown that sustained positive emotions lead to a highly efficient and regenerative functional mode associated with increased coherence in heart-rhythm patterns and greater synchronization and harmony among physiological systems," McCraty wrote in his paper, Heart Rhythm Coherence – An Emerging Area of Biofeedback.
HeartMath Tools: Practical Solutions for Stress Reduction
HeartMath tools, such as the Quick Coherence®, Heart Lock-In® and Freeze Frame® techniques, and the emWave® and Inner Balance™ HRV coherence technologies, provide practical solutions for individuals looking to mitigate the effects of stress. By boosting heart coherence, these tools help people restore both physical and psychological balance and calm.
Prospect for Non-Drug Strategies to Preserve Cognitive Health
As we face an anticipated surge in Alzheimer’s prevalence, interventions that aim to reduce stress by enhancing heart coherence and invoking positive emotions become all the more crucial. While this won’t cure Alzheimer’s, it can significantly contribute to reducing one of its major risk factors – chronic stress – thus offering an empowering way to help people preserve their cognitive health and reduce key biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
HeartMath Institute President Sara Childre is among the millions of people who have been touched by Alzheimer’s: "My father had Alzheimer’s for eight years. It is a tough disease. He was quite brilliant, had an economics degree, and was a three-star general in the Marines. It was so disheartening to see his cognitive functions just melt away. I do believe all the stressors of wars – WWII, the Korean War and two tours in Vietnam – added to the severity of the disease."
HeartMath Institute is providing hope that with further research, we can discover more powerful non-drug strategies for managing stress and preserving cognitive health in our aging society.The Institute’s research continues to push the boundaries of science and shed new light on the intricate relationship between our heart, brain, and overall health and wellness.