Dispositional mindfulness associated with better cardiovascular health

October 23, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] -- Pay attention to the implication of these new research results: People who pay more attention to their feelings and experiences tend to have better cardiovascular health.

As noted more precisely in a new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers at Brown University found a significant association between self-reported "dispositional mindfulness" and better scores on four of seven cardiovascular health indicators, as well as a composite overall health score. Dispositional mindfulness is defined as someone's awareness and attention to what they are thinking and feeling in the moment.

The study is the first to quantify such an association between mindfulness and better cardiovascular health, said study lead author Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology in the School of Public Health. It's an encouraging link for health promotion, because mindfulness can be enhanced with training.

"Mindfulness is changeable, and standardized mindfulness interventions are available," Loucks said. "Mostly they've been looked at for mental health and pain management, but increasingly they are being looked at for cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, smoking, and blood pressure."

The connection may come about because people who are attuned to their present feelings may be better at minding and managing the various cravings -- for salty or sugary foods or cigarettes or even a spell on the couch -- that undermine health, Loucks said. Mindfulness interventions, for example, have already shown efficacy in helping people to quit smoking.

Measuring mindfulness and health

In the study, Loucks and his colleagues asked 382 participants in the broader New England Family Study to answer the 15 questions of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS).

MAAS questions, rated on a six-point scale from "almost always" to "almost never" include "I find it difficult to stay focused on what's happening in the present" and "I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention."

The participants also underwent tests to determine ratings on seven indicators of cardiovascular health, as suggested by the American Heart Association: smoking avoidance, physical activity, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption, cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose. The researchers also noted the participants' age, race, sex, education and scores on standardized scales of depression, and sense of control in their lives.

In their analysis of the data, Loucks and his team examined the association between the degree of self-reported mindfulness and the scores on each of the seven cardiovascular health indicators, accounting for age, sex, and race. They also calculated a composite score of the health indicators.

Participants with high MAAS scores had an 83 percent greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health (as measured by the composite score) compared to those with relatively low MAAS scores. High vs. low MAAS scores were associated with significantly higher cardiovascular health on four of the seven individual indicators: BMI, physical activity, fasting glucose, and avoiding smoking.

That higher mindfulness did not also associate with higher scores for blood pressure or cholesterol may be because neither of those health indicators directly affect how someone feels in a typical moment, whereas smoking, obesity (and closely related fasting glucose), and physical activity are all much more explicitly evident experiences for the self.

Meanwhile, fruit and vegetable consumption, an indicator of diet quality, showed a positive association with higher MAAS scores, but with too wide a range of uncertainty to be considered statistically significant.

Loucks said the next step in his research is to begin testing whether improving mindfulness can increase cardiovascular health indicators. He said he hopes to launch randomized controlled trials with long-term follow-up (because behavioral interventions often look good in the short term but then don't last).
-end-
In addition to Loucks, the paper's other authors are Willoughby Britton, Chanelle Howe, Dr. Charles Eaton and Stephen Buka, all of Brown University.

The National Institutes of Health provided support for the study (grant: 1RC2AG036666).

Brown University

Related Blood Pressure Articles from Brightsurf:

Children who take steroids at increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clots
Children who take oral steroids to treat asthma or autoimmune diseases have an increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and blood clots, according to Rutgers researchers.

High blood pressure treatment linked to less risk for drop in blood pressure upon standing
Treatment to lower blood pressure did not increase and may decrease the risk of extreme drops in blood pressure upon standing from a sitting position.

Changes in blood pressure control over 2 decades among US adults with high blood pressure
National survey data were used to examine how blood pressure control changed overall among U.S. adults with high blood pressure between 1999-2000 and 2017-2018 and by age, race, insurance type and access to health care.

Transient increase in blood pressure promotes some blood vessel growth
Blood vessels are the body's transportation system, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and whisking away waste.

Effect of reducing blood pressure medications on blood pressure control in older adults
Whether the amount of blood pressure medications taken by older adults could be reduced safely and without a significant change in short-term blood pressure control was the objective of this randomized clinical trial that included 534 adults 80 and older.

Brain blood flow sensor discovery could aid treatments for high blood pressure & dementia
A study led by researchers at UCL has discovered the mechanism that allows the brain to monitor its own blood supply, a finding in rats which may help to find new treatments for human conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure) and dementia.

Here's something that will raise your blood pressure
The apelin receptor (APJ) has been presumed to play an important role in the contraction of blood vessels involved in blood pressure regulation.

New strategy for treating high blood pressure
The key to treating blood pressure might lie in people who are 'resistant' to developing high blood pressure even when they eat high salt diets, shows new research published today in Experimental Physiology.

Arm cuff blood pressure measurements may fall short for predicting heart disease risk in some people with resistant high blood pressure
A measurement of central blood pressure in people with difficult-to-treat high blood pressure could help reduce risk of heart disease better than traditional arm cuff readings for some patients, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association's Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

Heating pads may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure when lying down
In people with supine hypertension due to autonomic failure, a condition that increases blood pressure when lying down, overnight heat therapy significantly decreased systolic blood pressure compared to a placebo.

Read More: Blood Pressure News and Blood Pressure Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.