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Stress-related health problems account for 60% to 80% of visits to primary care clinicians, with 44% of Americans reporting an increase in psychological stress over the past five years.1 Yet from 2006 to 2009, only 3% of 33,045 office visits recorded in one study included stress management counseling by primary care physicians.1
IFM educator Jane Murray, MD, is helping to break this cycle; she has incorporated a six-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program and yoga classes into her functional medicine practice in Kansas City. Mind-body practices like yoga and meditation may help to reduce stress and enhance overall well-being. In 2017, a randomized controlled trial in elderly people found that yoga may provide greater improvements in physical functioning and self-reported health status than conventional physical activity.2
In addition to yoga, older adults with health concerns and possibly even cognitive decline may also benefit from mindfulness-based stress reduction and cognitive therapy, according to a 2018 study published in Clinical Gerontology.3 Reduced cortical thickness in the brain is theorized to be one possible mechanism of cognitive decline and is a predictive risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.4 Mindfulness programs and art therapy have been shown to improve memory and overall cognitive memory function over time and were accompanied by marked increases in cortical thickness.5-6 The positive changes included improvements in focus, divided attention, and short-term memory.5 Stress management programs and cognitive brain training may be important interventions for this population.
In the following video, Dr. Murray explains her unique approach to functional medicine, including how she plans to “rewire” her practice as she nears retirement.
Another unique feature of Dr. Murray’s functional medicine practice is her use of Dr. Dale Bredesen’s protocol for Alzheimer’s disease. Approximately 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million.7 Dr. Bredesen’s protocol evaluates 150 different variables known to contribute to Alzheimer’s disease—including biochemistry, genetics, and historical imaging—to help clinicians develop a personalized patient treatment protocol.
Functional medicine gives clinicians the tools to improve patient outcomes through integrated care and the flexibility to reimagine their practice models to align with their career goals.
- Nerurkar A, Bitton A, Davis RB, Phillips RS, Yeh G. When physicians counsel about stress: results of a national study. JAMA Intern Med. 2013:173(1):76-77. doi:10.1001/2013.jamainternmed.480
- Tew GA, Howsam J, Hardy M, Bissell L. Adapted yoga to improve physical function and health-related quality of life in physically-inactive older adults: a randomized controlled pilot trial. BMC Geriatr. 2017;17(1):131. doi:10.1186/s12877-017-0520-6
- Hazlett-Stevens H, Singer J, Chong A. Mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy with older adults: a qualitative review of randomized controlled outcome research. Clin Gerontol. 2019;42(4):347-358. doi:10.1080/07317115.2018.1518282
- Kim SJ, Jung NY, Kim YJ, et al. Clinical effects of frontal behavioral impairment: cortical thickness and cognitive decline in individuals with subjective cognitive decline and amnestic mild cognitive impairment. J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;69(1):213-225. doi:10.3233/JAD-190007
- Yu J, Rawtaer I, Feng L, et al. Mindfulness intervention for mild cognitive impairment led to attention-related improvements and neuroplastic changes: results from a 9-month randomized control trial. J Psychiatr Res. 2021;135:203-211. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2021.01.032
- Yu J, Rawtaer I, Goh LG, et al. The art of remediating age-related cognitive decline: art therapy enhances cognition and increases cortical thickness in mild cognitive impairment. J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2021;27(1):79-88. doi:10.1017/S1355617720000697
- Alzheimer’s Association. 2020 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimers Dement. 2020;16(3):391-460. doi:10.1002/alz.12068