Meditation May Cut Future Heart Disease Risks
Even Teens Stand to Benefit, Study Shows
Feb. 17, 2005 -- Meditation can help heart health, a study from the Medical
College of Georgia shows.
The study was small, but its results were encouraging. Meditation may prove
to be a beneficial addition to lifestyle and/or medical approaches to heart
disease, say Frank Treiber, PhD, and colleagues.
Treiber directs the Georgia Prevention Institute at the Medical College of
Augusta. He and his colleagues reported their findings in Orlando, Fla., at the
Second International Conference on Women, Heart Disease, and Stroke.
Participants were 36 black females who were about 16 years old. All of them
had high to normal systolic blood pressure (prehypertension). That increased
their risk of future heart disease.
The girls were assigned to either get four months of training in
transcendental meditation (TM) or health education without meditation. Before
the groups got underway, researchers checked the pliability of a blood vessel
wall in the girls' arms. Studies have shown that African-Americans have
decrease pliability of blood vessels. TM has been shown to improve this
function in young people with prehypertension.
Normal healthy blood vessels contract and expand; a very early sign of blood
vessel disease is when this ability is impaired. A decrease in blood vessels'
ability to contract and expand is seen in high blood pressure.
The blood vessel pliability test was repeated four months later. The
researchers compared the change in blood vessel function to the earlier
By the four-month follow-up, the transcendental meditation group had
"improved significantly" its blood vessel function compared to the
group which received health education only, say the researchers.
That might bode well for the girls' future heart health. The blood vessel
problems studied have been linked to high blood pressure, poor cholesterol, and
coronary artery disease, say the researchers.
Transcendental meditation was popularized in recent decades by Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi. It's easy to learn and doesn't require any particular religious,
spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, says Robert Schneider, MD.
Schneider directs the Center for Health and Aging Studies in Fairfield,
Iowa. He is also a professor of physiology and Maharishi Ayurveda. He discussed
meditation and aging in a previous WebMD Live Event.
Meditation has garnered lots of research attention. It's been found to be
good for the heart, immune system, PMS, and even breastfeeding and hot flashes.
There seems to be no down side to meditation, but it doesn't take the place of
needed conventional medicine.
Say Om ... or Not
"There are many different forms of meditation," says Patricia
Monaghan, author of Meditation, The Complete Guide. In a live event with WebMD,
she counted more than 50 kinds of meditation.
You don't need a mantra or a Zen-like room, and you don't have to twist
yourself into a pretzel, says Monaghan. Sitting and focusing on your breath
works. So does meditating while walking. Classes teach the techniques, and the
practice takes as little as 10 minutes a day, says Monaghan. "Everyone has
10 minutes," she says.