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Meditation boosts heart health in African-Americans

Sunday November 18, 2012
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African Americans with heart disease who regularly practiced Transcendental Meditation were 48% less likely to have a myocardial infarction, stroke or die from all causes compared with African Americans who attended a health education class for more than five years, according to a study.

Those practicing meditation also lowered their blood pressure and reported less stress and anger. And the more regularly patients meditated, the greater their survival, said researchers who conducted the study at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

"We hypothesized that reducing stress by managing the mind-body connection would help improve rates of this epidemic disease," Robert Schneider, MD, the study’s lead researcher and director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa, said in a news release. "It appears that Transcendental Meditation is a technique that turns on the body’s own pharmacy, to repair and maintain itself."

For the study, researchers randomly assigned 201 people to participate in a Transcendental Meditation stress-reducing program or a health education class about lifestyle modification for diet and exercise.

Among the participants, 42% were women and the average age was 59. Half reported earning less than $10,000 per year. The average body mass index was 32, which is clinically obese. Nearly 60% in both treatment groups took cholesterol-lowering drugs, 41% of the mediation group and 31% of the health education group took aspirin, and 38% of the meditation group and 43% of the health education group smoked.

Those in the meditation program sat with eyes closed for about 20 minutes twice a day practicing the technique, allowing their minds and bodies to rest deeply while remaining alert. Participants in the health education group were advised, under the instruction of professional health educators, to spend at least 20 minutes a day at home practicing heart-healthy behaviors such as exercise, healthy meal preparation and nonspecific relaxation.

Researchers evaluated participants at the start of the study, at three months and every six months thereafter for body mass index, diet, program adherence, blood pressure and cardiovascular hospitalizations.

There were 52 primary endpoint events, which included death, myocardial infarction or stroke. Of those, 20 events occurred in the mediation group, compared with 32 in the health education group.

Blood pressure dropped by 5 mm/Hg and anger decreased significantly among transcendental meditation participants compared with controls.

Both groups showed beneficial changes in exercise and alcohol consumption, and the meditation group showed a trend toward reduced smoking. There were no significant differences between the groups in weight, exercise or diet. Regular meditation was correlated with reduced death, MI and stroke.

The researchers said they focused on African Americans because of health disparities, with death from heart disease about 50% higher in black adults compared with whites.

"Transcendental Meditation may reduce heart disease risks for both healthy people and those with diagnosed heart conditions," said Schneider, who also is dean of Maharishi College of Perfect Health. "The research on Transcendental Meditation and cardiovascular disease is established well enough that physicians may safely and routinely prescribe stress reduction for their patients with this easy to implement, standardized and practical program."

The study, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, appeared Nov. 13 on the website of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, an American Heart Association journal. The study abstract is available at http://circoutcomes.ahajournals.org/content/early/2012/11/13/CIRCOUTCOMES.112.967406.abstract.


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