Transcendental Meditation

Heart disease prevention

Heart is the “engine” of the human body. Without this efficient pump, essential nutrients and oxygen would not reach every nook and cranny of the body.

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For optimum health, this hard-working machine needs to be in good shape. Yet many people nowadays suffer from various forms of heart disease.

For decades researchers have found that the Transcendental Meditation technique (TM) benefits patients with heart disease. TM is a simple, natural and effortless mental technique practiced twice a day for 20 minutes. It is easy to learn from a qualified teacher (it only takes 1-2 hours on 4 consequtive days) and enjoyable to practice independently hence forth.

Lower blood pressure and reduced stress

Numerous studies confirm consistently that Transcendental Meditation reduces blood pressure. Reduced blood pressure is often a key target in improving the condition of people with heart disease.

It is also natural for the human body to respond to stressful situations with increased blood pressure, higher heart rate and breathing rate. Over the long term, this burden could have damaging effect on the body. In the modern world where stress is often synonymous with everyday life, it is therefore an important risk factor for heart disease.

Studies show that Transcendental Meditation helps to change how the body responds to stress, lessening its negative impact on our heart and general health.

Other risk factors

Transcendental Meditation can also help people with atherosclerosis – thickening of the artery walls as a result of accumulation of fatty materials like cholesterol. Research shows that practicing Transcendental Meditation reduces carotid artery intima-media thickness, an indicator of coronary atherosclerosis. [1]

Another of the risk factors of disability or dying of heart disease is a condition called metabolic syndrome. This condition includes high blood pressure, too much fat and/or cholesterol in the blood (dyslipidemia), visceral obesity (fat deposits around organs) and blood sugar levels no longer naturally responding to insulin.

Randomized controlled trial results showed that after 16 weeks of Transcendental Meditation practice, patients with metabolic syndrome had

  • lower blood pressure
  • lower insulin resistance
  • improved cardiac autonomic nervous system tone [2]

Why meditation is good for your heart

Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart is unable to supply sufficient blood flow, leading to symptoms like shortness of breath and inability to exercise. A randomized controlled study published in 2007 found that practice of Transcendental Meditation improved the functional capacity and quality of life for patients with congestive heart failure. [3]

Research results also demonstrate that practicing TM reduces exercise-induced myocardial ischemia and left ventricular hypertrophy in sufferers from cardiovascular disease. [4] A study with prehypertensive adolescents also found decrease in left ventricular mass index. [5]

A key study: Lower heart disease risk for teens

lower risk of heart disease in teens transcendental meditation research

Dr. Vernon Barnes, a physiologist in the Georgia Health Sciences University Institute of Public and Preventive Health and a co-author on the study

In a study of 62 black teens with high blood pressure, those who meditated twice a day for 15 minutes had lower left ventricular mass, an indicator of future cardiovascular disease, than a control group, said Dr. Vernon Barnes, a physiologist in the Medical College of Georgia and the Georgia Health Sciences University Institute of Public and Preventive Health.

Barnes, Dr. Gaston Kapuku, a cardiovascular researcher in the institute, and Dr. Frank Treiber, a psychologist and former GHSU Vice President for Research, co-authored the study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Half of the group was trained in Transcendental Meditation and asked to meditate for 15 minutes with a class and 15 minutes at home for a four-month period. The other half was exposed to health education on how to lower blood pressure and risk for cardiovascular disease, but no meditation. Left ventricular mass was measured with two-dimensional echocardiograms before and after the study and the group that meditated showed a significant decrease.

“Increased mass of the heart muscle’s left ventricle is caused by the extra workload on the heart with higher blood pressure,” Barnes explained. “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.”

During meditation, which Barnes likens to a period of deep rest, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system decreases and the body releases fewer-than-normal stress hormones. “As a result, the vasculature relaxes, blood pressure drops and the heart works less,” he said.

School records also showed behavioral improvements.

“Transcendental Meditation results in a rest for the body that is often deeper than sleep,” Barnes said. “Statistics indicate that one in every 10 black youths have high blood pressure. If practiced over time, the meditation may reduce the risk of these teens developing cardiovascular disease, in addition to other added health benefits. “

GHSU’s new Institute of Public and Preventive Health seeks to improve health, reduce health disparities and prevent injury and illness in Georgia through research, service, leadership and training.

Academic reference:
Vernon A. Barnes, Gaston K. Kapuku, Frank A. Treiber. “Impact of Transcendental Meditation on Left Ventricular Mass in African American Adolescents.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012; 2012: 1 DOI: 10.1155/2012/923153