Meditation and Heart Disease:
May Reduce Heart Disease Risk
adolescents with high normal blood pressure who practice transcendental meditation
improve the ability of their blood vessels to relax and may reduce their risk
of becoming adults with cardiovascular disease, researchers say.
eight months of meditation, these adolescents experienced a 21 percent increase
in the ability of their blood vessels to dilate compared to a 4 percent decrease
experienced by their non-meditating peers, says Dr. Vernon A. Barnes, physiologist
at the Medical College of Georgias Georgia Prevention Institute
and lead investigator on the study.
blood vessels are not rigid pipes, says Dr. Barnes. They
need to dilate and constrict, according to the needs of the body.
If this improvement in the ability to dilate can be replicated in
other at-risk groups and cardiovascular disease patients, this could
have important implications for inclusion of meditation programs
to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and its clinical consequences.
know this type of change is achievable with lipid lowering drugs, but its
remarkable that a meditation program can produce such a change, the researcher
the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Hypertension, Dr.
Barnes and his colleagues reported that 15 minutes of twice-daily transcendental
meditation steadily lowered the blood pressure of 156 black, inner-city adolescents
and their pressures tended to stay lower.
new study, being presented during the 63rd Annual Scientific Conference of
the American Psychosomatic Society held March 2-5 2007 in Vancouver, focused
on 111 of those adolescents, 57 who meditated and 54 controls.
researchers found among the meditators an increased ability of the blood vessel
lining, called the endothelium, to relax. Dysfunction in the ability of
the endothelium to dilate is an early event in heart disease, a process that starts
at a young age, says Dr. Barnes.
four months and again at eight months, researchers used echocardiography to measure
the diameter of the right brachial artery, the main artery that feeds the arm,
before and after a blood pressure cuff was inflated for two minutes. They found
essentially no difference in the ability of that vessel to relax after stress
in either group at four months. But by eight months, EDAD or endothelial-dependent
arterial dilation, was significantly improved in the meditators, says Dr. Barnes,
noting that as with all lifestyle changes, the full benefits of meditating may
take a while.
cant be expected overnight, he says. Meditation and other positive
lifestyle habits such as exercising and eating right have to become part of your
life, like brushing your teeth. Long-term studies are needed to determine
the long-term impact of meditation on the risk of heart disease, he says.
already know that smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and cardiovascular
disease are all associated with decreased EDAD. With the high prevalence
of heart disease we have in our country today, this is something that should be
considered, he says of meditation, which is inexpensive and has no side
obesity epidemic in the United States, he says, likely is the primary contributor
to the increasing blood pressure rates in children. But obesity appears to be
part of an unhealthy cycle where the stresses of everyday life such as
poverty and not feeling safe at home contribute to bad habits such as overeating
and/or eating high-fat comfort foods and not exercising. Stress also may impair
sleep, preventing the body and blood pressure from resting and recovering.
appears that meditating allowing the mind to settle to minimal activity
for 15 minutes twice daily may help the meditator and his blood vessels
relax in the hectic world around him.
Frank Treiber, director of MCGs Georgia Prevention Institute, and
Dr. Surender Malhotra, cardiology fellow at MCG, are co-authors on the study which
is highlighted as one of 10 abstract submissions to the conference viewed as having
the highest potential to change clinical practice from the perspective of screening,
diagnosis or treatment.
research was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
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