Mindfulness-Based Meditation Lowers Blood Pressure

Mindfulness-Based Meditation Lowers Blood Pressure

Not surprisingly, the idiom ‘mind over body’ has again been proven apt.

In new evidence that proves the effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction and muscle relaxation training, participants were able to significantly lower their blood pressure measurements — both the systolic (the top number, or the pressure or force on the arteries while the heart pumps) and diastolic (the bottom number, or the pressure of the heart while it rests between beats). For most people, a blood pressure reading of less than 120 over 80 is considered normal. A higher reading is considered pre-hypertensive (120-139 systolic/80-89 diastolic) or hypertensive (139/90 and above).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three Americans currently suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension. That’s more than 30 percent of us! Many more are living with undiagnosed and untreated hypertension that can put them at risk for heart disease and premature death.

You’re Not Alone

It seems as though every stage of life is rife with crisis that can potentially raise our blood pressure. In 2009, more than 348,000 people died with undetected or untreated hypertension according to the CDC.

Lifestyle choices can unknowingly put you at risk: stress at work or at home, poor diet, obesity, too much alcohol, smoking, and/or recreational drug use. Obviously, those choices are as influential as those you cannot change, such as genetics, chronic disease, or aging. But there are solutions, and one of them is to commit to a daily meditation routine.

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Just Say, “Oooooohhhhhmmmmm”

In a 2014 study published this month in Psychosomatic Medicine, Dr. Richard Josephson, Director of the Cardiac Intensive Care and Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation at the UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, Cleveland, Ohio, released trial results that examined the positive result of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training for hypertension.

More than 100 participants in the eight-week trial showed that MBSR can help reduce stress, anxiety, and even depression in a structured treatment management program of 2.5 hours each week. Participants discussed their stress in an open forum, submitted to “homework” assignments that documented mood and anxiety levels, and learned effective meditation strategies. Along with practicing techniques for progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), each participant had to meditate for 45 minutes each day, six days a week.

As a result, the MBSR practice over eight weeks resulted in significant and consistent declines in blood pressure, a nearly five-point reduction in systolic, and nearly a two-point reduction in diastolic readings.

“This [study] was one of the first prospective randomized trials of MBSR as a nonpharmocologic treatment option,” explains Dr. Josephson. “We are optimistic about its potential as a result of the findings and hope that more trials can be conducted to further evaluate the effectiveness of MBSR as it could have broad applications for multiple maladies.”

No More Pills?

There is hope that MBSR could become an adjunct therapy for those people who are not currently seeking treatment for hypertension or for those who may be pre-hypertensive. For others, it may decrease the need for medication. And actually, an earlier study showed equally promising results.

In 2013, a study also published in Psychosomatic Medicine was based on similar research and obtained similar results. In that study, 56 individuals suffering with pre-hypertension saw their systolic and diastolic numbers drop by as much as five points.

Earlier studies also found equally substantial decreases in blood pressure through Transcendental Meditation. Although the decreases are modest, they are on par with decreases that manifest by taking blood pressure lowering medications. Physicians now believe that a combination of therapies is the best option, but anyone can lower his or her risk threshold by learning to incorporate some meditation practices into their daily lives.

“Our results provide evidence that MBSR, when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for blood pressure in the pre-hyptensive range” explains Joel W. Hughes, Ph.D., of Kent State University and co-author of the 2013 study.



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