We already know that mindfulness meditation and a mentally active life are boons to healthy aging. But do these practices also help older people struggling with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)? To find out, Harvard researchers reviewed more than a dozen recent studies that looked at the effects of either mindfulness or cognitive training (including computerized programs) on older adults with MCI. In findings published online Dec. 29, 2020, by The American Journal of Medicine, researchers concluded that both strategies have potential benefits for cognition and mood. For people with MCI, practicing mindfulness over several weeks to months seemed to sharpen attention, memory, and other mental skills, and ease anxiety and depression. Similarly, cognitive training was associated with better memory, executive function, and mood. Most of the studies included in the review were relatively small and short-term, so they don't provide strong evidence of benefit, nor could they determine how long any benefit might last. But researchers say both strategies are feasible and low-risk, with the potential to benefit thinking skills and mood in people with MCI. Now we need more research to find out how the benefits might translate into everyday life and endure over time.
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