Dec. 6, 2004 -- Meditation has the power to lower blood pressure, even for healthy young people. All it takes is a little low-cost training and 20 minutes a day, say experts from the Medical College of Georgia.
You don't even need to say "om." No particular personal or spiritual beliefs are required. Simply focusing on breathing will do the job, say Frank Treiber, PhD, and colleagues.
Meditation has shown promise against high blood pressure and other concerns including anxiety, stress, depression, and addictions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends it for people facing high blood pressure. Medications, diet, and exercise can also help control high blood pressure.
The potential for meditation to lower blood pressure in young people is significant, since high blood pressure is creeping into younger age groups. It's particularly common in some minority groups. For instance, black youths have up to seven times the risk of high blood pressure, say the researchers.
High blood pressure "is no longer considered an adult disease," write the researchers in the November/December issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
Treiber's team recently tested a meditation program on 73 middle school students in Augusta, Ga. None of the students had high blood pressure. All wore monitors recording their blood pressure at regular intervals, day and night.
A teacher taught half of the group to meditate. The other participants learned about blood pressure in health education classes emphasizing diet and exercise.
The meditating students sat with their eyes closed for 10 minutes, focusing on their breathing. If thoughts intruded, they noticed them and gently returned their focus to their breathing.
The students meditated twice daily -- once at school and once at home. More than 85% completed the three-month study.
At the study's end, their blood pressure was significantly lower. Their resting systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) was down 3.8 points more than the nonmeditating group. Their blood pressure and heart rate during waking hours were also better than the nonmeditators, who had no change or slight increases in those areas.
Stretched into adulthood, those numbers would cut the risk of stroke or heart disease by more than 12%, say the researchers. Since meditation is free and easy to learn, it may deserve a place on school curriculum, they conclude.