Meditation has been used for thousands of years to promote relaxation and awareness. For this reason, it is often recommended to help alleviate problems caused by anxiety and depression. Now, scientists and doctors are learning about exciting effects it may have on physical health.
What have they found?
Doctors all over the country are discovering new ways meditation can benefit the body. In Iowa, Dr. Robert. H. Schneider and his colleagues discovered in a study conducted between 1998 and 2007 that a group instructed to meditate daily was at a lower risk for “experiencing the combined endpoint of cardiovascular events that included myocardial infarction (heart attack) or stroke, or death” than another that was not. Systolic blood pressure was also found to have decreased. Percentage-wise, there was a 47% reduction in deaths, heart attacks and strokes for the meditation group.
How does it work?
The connection between heart disease and stress has long been established. Put simply, meditation lowers stress. According to a study done in 2007, “Mindfulness meditation is reported to lower symptoms of depression, anxiety, and general distress by respectively 43%, 37%, 35%, and significantly reduce blood pressure.”
But there is more to it than just relaxing one’s mind. Meditation’s focus on improving breathing patterns can also be very important, as the respiratory system relates to many of the debilitating symptoms of chronic heart failure. This focus on breathing helps to relax the body, which eases hypertension. In a study involving teens at a high risk for becoming hypertensive adults, doctors found that “Two 15-minute meditation sessions led to an average 21% increase in the ability of the teens’ blood vessels to dilate.” In comparison, the teens who did not mediate “experienced a 4% decrease in blood vessel dilation over the 8-month study.”
Dr. Schneider’s study is the first controlled clinical trial to offer proof of these long-term effects. He describes the improvements as caused by what he calls “new medications” produced by the body itself. Lead investigator in the study of the hypertensive teens, Dr. Vernon A. Barnes says, “We know that this type of change is achievable with lipid-lowering drugs, but it’s remarkable that a meditation program can produce such a change. This could have important implications for inclusion of meditation programs to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases and its clinical consequences.” As evidence builds and studies continue, meditation is becoming more than just a spiritual practice. Someday soon it could be your prescription!
So, as if you didn’t already have a million reasons to, take a moment to relax and breathe. Your heart will thank you for it!
Join Our Community