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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Thoughtful reflection

The value of meditation continued...

TM has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart disease, among other benefits, according to Robert Schneider, MD, the dean for the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine in Fairfield, Iowa, who studies the effects of traditional East Indian relaxation practices on health. For example, a study published in the journal Stroke in March 2000 found that reducing stress through TM can reduce hardening of the carotid arteries in African-American patients with high blood pressure over the age of 20 when measured over a six- to nine-month period. Whether this can be generalized to all races requires further research.

A much earlier study, published in the December 1989 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, also found that TM may have helped increase longevity among a group of 73 seniors (primarily men) averaging 81 years of age at the beginning of the study. After three years, all of those who were trained in and practiced TM were still alive, compared to 65% to 87.5% for those who practiced other relaxation techniques or no techniques.

"TM quite readily and systematically appears to restore the body's own self-repair mechanisms," says Schneider, whose school recently received an $8 million grant from the NIH to research the effects of Vedic medicine on aging.

Other real-life examples

Judith Green, an Orthodox Jew living in Los Angeles' Los Feliz neighborhood, says she doesn't have to wait for more studies to recognize the benefits that 30 years of private prayer have had on her own health. Every Friday at sundown, the start of the Jewish Sabbath, the 62-year-old South Africa native lights traditional Sabbath candles and spends up to 20 minutes praying for herself and her loved ones, asking for guidance and assistance from "a power outside ourselves that can make things possible."

For Green, who describes her health as very good, the practice serves as a weekly reality check. "It helps remind me that I can't control everything in my life," she says. "I just need to have the patience to let things come around on their own if that's what's supposed to happen."

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