Try Meditation to Lower Your Blood Pressure and Protect Your Heart
Cheap, low-tech stress relief may also protect against depression, insomnia, and anxiety
By Sarah Baldauf
Posted November 18, 2009
Meditation is no longer just for the groovy folk. A just published study in the American Journal of Hypertension suggests the practice may bring cardiovascular and mental-health benefits. The research, conducted at American University in Washington, followed 298 students, half of whom practiced transcendental meditation for 20 minutes once or twice daily over three months and half of whom did not. Results: A subgroup of subjects in the meditation group who were at increased risk for hypertension significantly lowered their blood pressure and psychological distress and also bolstered their coping ability. The average reduction in blood pressure in this group—a 6.3-mm Hg decrease in the top (systolic) number of a blood pressure reading and a 4-mm Hg decrease in the lower (diastolic) number, compared with the control group—was associated with a 52 percent reduction in the risk of developing hypertension in the future. Meditators who were not at increased risk for hypertension saw a reduction in psychological distress, depression, and anxiety as well as increased coping ability but no significant lowering of blood pressure. The results are particularly meaningful at a time when "improvement in mental health is of great concern as greater numbers of college students are being treated for anxiety and depression than ever before," says lead study author, Sanford Nidich, professor of physiology and health at the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management in Iowa.
Lately, meditation has been garnering attention from a host of medical and scientific researchers. More than 120 meditation studies are listed on clinicaltrials.gov, a clearinghouse for research supported by the National Institutes of Health, investigating the intervention in patients with conditions from cancer and heart disease to post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, and binge eating. It's no cure-all, but early research is suggesting meditation could play a helpful role in mediating the stress response that contributes to a number of physical and mental conditions.