Transcendental Meditation May Lower Heart Risk
Nov. 13, 2012 -- Transcendental Meditation is good for the heart, according to a new study.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. It found that African-Americans with heart disease who regularly practiced TM reduced their risk of death, heart attack, and stroke by 48%.
Researcher Robert Schneider, MD, says those results should apply to the general population. Schneider is director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the Maharishi University of Management (MUM) in Fairfield, Iowa.
"This taps into a universal physical phenomenon that is not related to race, age, culture, etc.," Schneider says. "This state of restful alertness has restorative benefits for everyone. It's a way to utilize the body's own internal pharmacy."
TM is a trademarked form of meditation. It requires training by a certified teacher to "settle inward" to a place called "transcendental consciousness." The technique is one of the two pillars underlying education at the Maharishi University of Management, according to the school's web site.
Health Benefits of TM
The study was a collaboration between MUM and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Researchers recruited 201 African-American men and women whose average age was 59 and who were generally considered obese.
All of the participants previously had been diagnosed with heart disease. Many of them were current smokers. African-Americans, says Schneider, have a 35% higher risk of dying from heart disease than the general population.
The people in the study were divided into two groups. While both groups continued to receive standard care and medication for heart disease, the study group attended a seven-step course in TM. The people in that group were then instructed to meditate twice a day for 20 minutes for the duration of the study.
Schneider says that the program was standard for TM practitioners and had not been modified for the study.
The comparison group received conventional health education. The people in that group were told to spend at least 20 minutes a day on heart-healthy activities.
Members of both groups were followed for as long as nine years.
In addition to reducing the risk of death, heart attack, and stroke by nearly half, TM also significantly lowered systolic blood pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading.
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%.