Meditation is for the Heart and Soul

High blood pressure reduced in black adolescents with transcendental meditation

(RxWiki News) If flying off the handle is said to raise your blood pressure, then calm relaxation should lower it, right? In fact, there is evidence that meditation can help people with hypertension.

A recent study has found that teaching hypertensive African American teens to meditate regularly has resulted in a lower measurement of a factor that can signal future development of cardiovascular disease.

"Meditation may help keep blood pressure under control."

Vernon Barnes, PhD, of the Department of Pediatrics at Georgia Prevention Institute in the Georgia Health Sciences University, and colleagues conducted a small study on the effects of meditation on the blood pressure of African American teenagers.

The researchers studied 62 black teenagers, with an average age of 16, who had high blood pressure. While 30 of the teens were taught transcendental meditation, the other 32 were provided health education on ways to reduce their blood pressure and their risk for cardiovascular disease.

The teens taught meditation were asked to meditate twice a day for 15 minutes each time, once with a class and once at home, over four months. The teens given the other health information were not taught meditation or asked to meditate.

At the beginning and end of the study, the researchers used echocardiograms to measure the left ventricular mass in each participants. Left ventricular mass is an indicator of developing cardiovascular disease: the lower the mass, the lower the risk.

They found that the teens who had meditated twice daily had a significant decrease in their left ventricular mass, potentially reducing their risk for future cardiovascular disease.

"Increased mass of the heart muscle's left ventricle is caused by the extra workload on the heart with higher blood pressure," Barnes said. "Some of these teens already had higher measures of left ventricular mass because of their elevated blood pressure, which they are likely to maintain into adulthood."

He explained that meditation is similar to a period of deep rest, which settles down the nervous system and lowers the amount of stress hormones the body releases. "As a result, the vasculature relaxes, blood pressure drops and the heart works less," he said.

The teens practicing meditation also gained slightly less weight over the four months than those who did not meditate, and the authors noted that the students who meditated also showed improvements in their behavior at school.

"Transcendental meditation results in a rest for the body that is often deeper than sleep," Barnes said. "If practiced over time, the meditation may reduce the risk of these teens developing cardiovascular disease, in addition to other added health benefits. "

In the study, the authors mentioned in their conclusion that schools may be one avenue to teach these healthy meditation practices.

"The successful implementation of the intervention points to the potential of school-based stress reduction programs as a means of decreasing likelihood of early onset of left ventricular mass in high-risk youth, particularly African Americans," they wrote.

The study appeared online May 22 in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the South Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute. The authors did not note any conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
June 11, 2012