When patients calm the brain down through meditation, they not only feel more relaxed, their bodies are physically more stress-resistant. Studies have shown that meditation reduces blood pressure and cuts the risk of heart attack.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and people of all ages and backgrounds can get this condition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that early action is key, and meditation is a great place to start.
In one 2013 study published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, researchers examined women and men diagnosed with prehypertension – blood pressure that was higher than normal, but not high enough to require antihypertensive drugs. While one group were assigned to work work mindfulness skills, including sitting meditation and yoga exercises, the "comparison" group received lifestyle advice plus a muscle-relaxation activity.
Those in the mindfulness-based group had a significant reduction in blood pressure, with systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). In contrast, the systolic blood pressure of those in the control group dropped less than 1 mm Hg.
About three out of 10 Americans have prehypertension and may be prescribed medications for the condition. Stress temporarily raises high blood pressure, and over the long run, these stress-related blood pressure spikes may add up. There's no question that stress is an epidemic in the 21st century, and meditation just may be the antidote.
Ilchi Lee, an expert of meditation, points out that calming the mind helps build stress-resistance, temporarily quieting the outside noise and finding a sense of inner calm. Focusing on breathing and gentle body movements reinforces the mind-body connection, and when done daily, guided meditation can work wonders.
"Meditation may reduce heart disease risks for both healthy people and those with diagnosed heart conditions," Schneider told the American Heart Association, who is also dean of Maharishi College of Perfect Health in Fairfield, Iowa.
Fighting Off Heart Problems
Another landmark study, published by the American Heart Association in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, corroborated the findings of the benefits of meditation. For the research, 201 participants were instructed in either meditation stress-reducing program or a lifestyle-modification course. Those in the meditation group made a big leap in dropping their blood pressure by 5 mm Hg. In short, meditation may cut the risk of heart attack and stroke in half.
"Many doctors and scientists are recognizing that mind-body-heart research has crossed a threshold," Dr. Schneider told PR Web. "With … the AHA's publication of a long-term clinical trial showing that the meditation technique reduces rates of death, heart attack and stroke by 48 percent – and with hundreds of other peer-reviewed studies on TM, mindfulness and other meditation practices – there is now strong scientific evidence that meditation, when properly practiced, may significantly contribute to preventing cardiovascular disease and promoting well-being."