Meditation decreases blood pressure

August 02, 1999

Transcendental Meditation decreases blood pressure by reducing constriction of the blood vessels and thereby decreases the risk of heart disease, new research shows.

Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia examined how Transcendental Meditation decreases constriction of blood vessels and effects the heart's output.

"For years we've known that long-term practitioners of Transcendental Meditation generally have lower blood pressure than others the same age," said Vernon A. Barnes, Ph.D., lead researcher in the study. "We are now beginning to understand the underlying mechanisms responsible for the beneficial influence of Transcendental Meditation on risk factors for heart disease. One of these mechanisms may be reduced blood pressure related to reduced vasoconstriction."

The researchers conducted two tests with 18 long-term daily Transcendental Meditation practitioners and a control group of 14 very healthy middle aged adults who did not meditate.

In the first test, both groups were simply at rest with eyes open. In the second test, for the Transcendental Meditation group only, participants were told to close their eyes and "begin meditating." For the control group only, participants were told to close their eyes and "relax as completely as possible." The results of the study appear in the current issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

Measurements were taken before, during, and after each session. The participants' cardiac output, vasoconstriction, heart rate, heart stroke volume, and blood pressure were measured with blood pressure cuffs and two sets of tetrapolar electrodes, one emitting current and the other sensing for thoracic bioimpedance-derived measures of stroke volume.

During the 20-minute resting session, the Transcendental Meditation group showed significant decreases in systolic blood pressure and vasoconstriction while meditating, compared with increases in the control group while resting.

The Transcendental Meditation group showed a significant 6.5 percent decrease in vasoconstriction during meditation, compared with a 1.6 percent increase in the control group during eyes-closed relaxation.

"The contrast between the two groups might have been greater if the Transcendental Meditation participants had been studied in their home environment," said Barnes. "Some participants reported their meditation was disturbed by the inflation of the blood pressure cuff every five minutes and by the fact that they were not allowed to sit in a cross-legged position as they were accustomed to doing during meditation at home."

Additionally, the contrast between the groups might have been still greater if beginning meditators had been studied, since the blood pressure of the long-term meditators was remarkably low from the start.

This study was conducted in preparation for a research grant project entitled "Stress Reduction: Prevention of High Blood Pressure in African American Youth," currently supported by the National Institutes of Health.
-end-
Psychosomatic Medicine is the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Psychosomatic Society, published bimonthly. For information about the journal, contact Joel E. Dimsdale, M.D., at 619-543-5468.

Posted by the Center for the Advancement of Health http://www.cfah.org. For information about the Center, call Petrina Chong, pchong@cfah.org 202-387-2829.

Center for Advancing Health

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