Transcendental Meditation Can Help Ward Off Stroke
March 2, 2000 (Los Angeles) -- Transcendental meditation (TM), an ancient
stress-management technique, may decrease blood vessel blockage and help people
avoid a heart attack or stroke. A study published in the March issue of the
journal Stroke shows that TM decreased the thickness of blood vessel
walls, a known risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
"We were expecting to see some effect, but we were surprised to see such
a large effect," author Amparo Castillo-Richmond, MD, tells WebMD.
Castillo-Richmond is an assistant professor at the College of Maharishi Vedic
Medicine in Fairfield, Iowa.
The investigators studied 60 black men and women with high blood pressure.
Each participant was randomly assigned either to a transcendental meditation
group or to a health education program on improving risk factors for heart
disease, such as lowering cholesterol through diet. The TM group meditated for
20 minutes twice a day, while the health education group spent a similar amount
of time in "home practice," consisting of the leisure activity of their
choice. Both groups were led by certified instructors from the black community,
and the teaching materials were targeted to black people. The participants were
followed for six to nine months.
TM caused a significant decline in the thickness of the wall of the carotid
artery, which supplies blood to the brain, the authors found. The effect of
this change was to widen the inside of the artery and allow it to carry more
blood to the brain. In contrast, the group receiving health education continued
to see a worsening in the thickness of the blood-vessel walls. The TM group
also had significant changes in blood pressure, as well as heart rate. Blood
pressure also decreased significantly in the health education group.
"This is the first time we have been able to show that a mind-body
technique can reverse this disease," says co-author Robert H. Schneider,
MD, director of the Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the College
of Maharishi Vedic Medicine. "It is easy to do, it feels good, [it] has
major beneficial effects, and it is cost effective."
"What TM seems to do is enliven or enhance the body's own self-repair
mechanisms," he tells WebMD. "We see this in terms of a decrease in
hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which affect the development of
atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries] in the blood vessels."
For people interested in trying TM, Schneider suggests checking the phone
book under "meditation" or "transcendental meditation."
"Trained TM instructors are available in every major city, not just in the
U.S., but all over the world," he says.
"This is one of the few proven stress management techniques that has
been tested with our best science," says Noel Bairey-Merz, MD, director of
the Preventive Cardiology Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
She was not involved in this study, but is working with the authors on the
effect of TM in preventing sudden death in people at high risk of heart
disease. "I would concur that it appears to have an effect on blood
pressure and carotid artery thickness, and it has no adverse effects. I would
say this is ready for prime time."