Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

Font Size

Treating Hypertension 'Naturally'

High blood pressure treatment isn't limited to drugs. Lower blood pressure naturally. Natural treatments such as meditation and diet can have a significant effect.
By
WebMD Feature

"Meditation, not medication," is the advice Robert Schneider, MD, gives when it comes to high blood pressure treatment. It's not his only advice, but it's right up there at the top of his list.

Schneider, dean of the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, is also director of the university's government-sponsored Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention, one of 16 such centers in the country. Schneider has been researching the positive effects of the ancient medical science of maharishi vedic medicine -- of which transcendental meditation (TM) is key --for the past 15 years.

Citing statistics from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Schneider says that about 50 million adults in the United States suffer from high blood pressure. If left untreated, high blood pressure can damage the kidneys and lead to stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Heart disease and stroke are the first and third leading causes of death, respectively, in the U.S. (Cancer is second.)

High blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as systolic blood pressure -- the top number -- averaging 140 mmHg or greater, and/or diastolic blood pressure -- the bottom number -- averaging 90 mmHg or greater. The systolic pressure is the pressure of blood in the vessels when the heart contracts. Diastolic pressure is the pressure of the blood between heartbeats when the heart is at rest.

In the past 30 years, says Schneider, approximately 600 studies have been conducted worldwide on the effects of transcendental meditation on blood pressure. "TM is a simple mind-body technique that allows you to gain a unique state of restful awareness or alertness," says Schneider. Studies have repeatedly shown it to be effective in easing stress, one of the major risk factors for heart disease. Though there are many kinds of meditative techniques, it is only TM, says Schneider, that has been studied and been proved to be effective in improving a range of risk factors for heart disease. Researchers believe that the deep rest achieved through TM sparks biochemical changes that help the body and mind reach a more balanced state, in turn triggering the body's own self-repair mechanism.

TM involves the repetition of a word or phrase (known as a mantra) while seated in a comfortable position with the eyes closed. Most TM practitioners suggest it be practiced for 20 minutes a session, twice a day.

In a study led by Schneider and reported in 1995 in the journal Hypertension, TM was compared with progressive muscle relaxation as a means of controlling stress in older African Americans with high blood pressure. Of the 197 men and women (out of 213) who completed the screening, the reductions in blood pressure in the TM group were significantly greater than those in the progressive muscle relaxation group. TM reduced systolic blood pressure by more than 10 points and diastolic pressure by more than 6 points (compared with a 5 point reduction for systolic and a 3 point fall for diastolic with progressive muscle relaxation).

Today on WebMD

lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW
man in bed
TOOL
 
heart-shaped stethoscope
Quiz
Overturned salt shaker
Quiz
 
heart healthy living
ARTICLE
Erectile Dysfunction Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Bernstein Hypertension Affects Cardiac Risk
VIDEO
Compressed heart
Article
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
thumbnail for lowering choloesterol slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Low Blood Pressure
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections