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Transcendental Meditation May Lower Heart Risk

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Health Benefits of TM continued...

Anger control and overall anger also improved. Those who entered the study with either high blood pressure or high stress benefited the most from meditation.

"What this is saying is that mind-body interventions can have an effect as big as conventional medications, such as statins," says Schneider.

The TM group was expected to meditate 14 times per week. But the researchers found that on average participants only practiced the technique 8.5 times.

They would have done well to stick to their instructions. Those who followed the study guidelines more strictly, Schneider says, had even greater benefits. Their risk reduction was 66%.

Second Opinion

"In cardiology, we are always impressed when we see any effective intervention," says cardiologist Michael Shapiro, DO, of Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. "But to actually show a reduction in overall mortality -- that is really impressive."

Shapiro, who reviewed the study for WebMD, says that its design appears scientifically rigorous and that its results are likely valid. But he says the study was too small to draw any definite conclusions.

"I am enthusiastic and cautiously optimistic," says Shapiro. "Overall, I like the study, and it provides justification for a much larger study."

Shapiro, who practices a different form of meditation, also says that more needs to be learned about what drives these results. He says the reduction in blood pressure, while significant, is likely not enough to account for all of the study's positive outcomes.

"Meditation can do a whole host of positive things: reduce anger and stress, encourage happiness," he says. "Who is to say that these are not the most important factors? This study can't get at the mechanism involved. We don't know how it works."

A Cost-Effective Means of Prevention

Transcendental Meditation, says Schneider, is "a simple, effortless, and natural way to settle down to a quiet state of mind."

But it is not free. According to the Maharishi Foundation USA's web site, the seven-part introductory TM course that the study participants attended costs $1,500. Financial aid and sliding scale fees are available to those who can't afford the full amount.

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