Medical studies conducted over the last decade are suggesting a possible link between the practice of meditation and improved heart health. Meditation uses techniques such as deep breathing, quiet contemplation or sustained focus on something benign, such as a color, phrase or sound, to help you let go of stress, feel peaceful and maintain a relaxed state of mind. For people with cardiovascular disease, meditation can be a life saver. Recent studies suggest that that meditation may have real therapeutic value for high-risk people with established hypertension and coronary artery disease.
According to statistics from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), 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.
Researchers believe that the deep rest achieved through meditation sparks biochemical changes that help the body and mind reach a more balanced state, in turn triggering the body’s own self-repair mechanism. Even though it is a mental technique, meditation results in a unique neurophysiological state. Those changes in the physiology help dilate your blood vessels, reduce stress hormones, decrease blood pressure, and improve heart health in general.
There are many types of meditation, so if you are planning to use meditation as part of your heart health regime, it is important to find an approach that you feel comfortable with. Transcendental meditation is a technique that allows your mind to focus inward, maintaining alertness to other thoughts or sensations without allowing them to interfere. It is done seated with your eyes closed for 20 minutes, twice a day. Mindful mediation may use sound or touch, for example the ringing of a bell, chanting, beads or a simple object to help the mind to focus. Relaxation response meditation uses a single word to focus on.
Doctors who suggest meditation as part of a treatment plan for high blood pressure caution that a daily meditation practice requires discipline and allocating time each day. This can be difficult for many patients, especially those with busy schedules. Also, because many factors affect blood pressure, meditation is usually prescribed as one, not necessarily the only, component of a treatment plan. Other elements might include medication / supplementation, exercise, weight management and changes in diet.