meditation & blood pressure

Mindfulness-based stress reduction helps lower blood pressure

ScienceBlog: Blood pressure is effectively lowered by mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for patients with borderline high blood pressure or “prehypertension.”

This finding is reported in the October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, the official journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. The journal is published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, a part of Wolters Kluwer Health.

“Our results provide evidence that MBSR, when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range,” writes Joel W. Hughes, PhD, of Kent State (Ohio) University and colleagues.

Mindfulness Practice Leads to Drop in Blood Pressure…

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Stress: The waves will come, but you learn to surf

wildmind meditation news

Keith Upchurch, the Herald-Sun: Thirty people are sitting in a wide circle, and no one is talking.

But that’s the way it’s supposed to be. This is a one-hour session on mindful meditation, offered at Duke Integrative Medicine off Erwin Road.

The session’s leader is Jeffrey Brantley, a psychiatrist and founder-director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at the Duke center. He’s been practicing meditation for more than 30 years, and teaching programs in mindfulness meditation for more than 20 years.

As the session continues and participants enter a 20-minute silent phase, Brantley advises the group to stay in the moment, to pay attention to the thoughts the mind is producing. Don’t fight the thoughts, even negative ones, but acknowledge them, he says.

The period of quiet is in such sharp contrast to the noise of everyday life that it’s almost shocking, but in a good way. Thoughts were whirling around my brain, but I tried to let them come and go without fighting them.

When the session was over, I felt that toxins had been released from my body. I felt much less stressed.

Others said they felt the same way.

Jane Lamm, a Chapel Hill artist, said she’s taken several classes on mindfulness and stress reduction. “It just makes you stop and enjoy the moment,” she said. “My favorite saying of his [Dr. Brantley] is that the waves are going to come, but you learn to surf. Or, to visualize that you’re a stone in the river, and the current is coming, but it’s going to go. And it’s good to just sit down and enjoy what you’re doing now.”

Lamm said the stress reduction classes have brought down her blood pressure.

“I’m an artist, and I wasn’t finding time to paint [because of stress],” she said. “I was letting my life outside of what I would like to do control me, and this is helping me get control.”

But she said that the $10 classes, which are offered to the public on Wednesdays at the center, have made a big difference in her life.

“It really helps to have someone guide you through it,” she said. “I see mindfulness as a state that I’ve wanted to be in, but didn’t know how to get there, and these classes are giving me a roadmap to get there.”

Another participant, Katie Stoudemire, 29, has been attending classes with Brantley for two years.

“It has helped me a lot in dealing with difficult people, and difficult situations at work,” she said. “So, being mindful of my own emotions and having compassion for my own distress helps — taking a minute to see how I’m feeling, and to acknowledge that, and to have compassion for how I feel. It gives you a chance to get unstuck from those feelings, so you’re not just reacting to these other people — that’s been super helpful. And I think it’s helped in my personal relationships, too.”

After the sessions, she said, it feels like there is more space in her mind.

“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “I suffer from an anxiety disorder, and this helps me with that, and gives me hope for the future, because maybe I can get to the point where I can be aware that I’m anxious, and can choose to not continue to be that way.”

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Cardiologist says meditation could be beneficial

wildmind meditation news

Recently, FOX 2 sat in on a group meditation session. You could almost feel the stress slipping away, which is good for the mind and body.

“So, what happens when we have elevated stress levels is the stress hormones in the body are produced in excess and there is a chronic elevation of those hormones. Those actually cause damage to the vascular walls, to the heart and to the other organs, and that is what raises the blood pressure,” said Beaumont [Mich.] Cardiologist Kavitha Chinnaiyan, M.D.

To mediate, all you really need is a quite place and the ability to still your mind. Dr. Chinnaiyan said just a few minutes every day could have tremendous benefits.

“Adding this aspect of meditation actually has been shown to decrease blood pressure, decrease blood cholesterol, reverse heart disease in some instances and actually prevent its progression,” she said.

“I go into my favorite room in the house, which is the living room, where it’s quiet and nobody’s out of bed yet, and this is where I usually find my time and my peace,” said Sandy Kovach.

“Having high blood pressure is not a normal thing,” Chinnaiyan said.

On the path to a healthier heart, Kovach is one of several local women taking part in the American Heart Association’s My Life Check Makeover. She and Kim Pratt are learning how this quiet relaxation can inspire change.

“Meditation … for one, has helped me lower my blood pressure. It’s helped me calm down and actually enjoy things around me. I just went on a trip last week, and I actually noticed the scenery more than I would normally just kind of (rushing) through,” said Pratt.

“If you’re driving and you get to some place and you have two minutes, that’s all it takes. Make it a habit. The issue is not about sitting down for 20 minutes every day. The issue is about making it a habit like brushing your teeth,” said Chinnaiyan.

Stress is one of the risk factors for heart disease. During the month of February, which is heart month, we’re focusing on how to reduce your risk of the number one killer.

To learn more about managing your stress or the My Life Check Assessment, check out the link below:

American Heart Association: Four Ways to Deal with Stress

My Life Check

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Can’t get the hang of meditation? Relax a minute, it’ll come to you

While medical science remains uncertain whether prayer has the power to heal, experts are pretty sure meditation works.

Yet another study released last month — this one in the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging — reports that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in brain density in areas related to memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.

Exactly what those brain changes mean is not clear, but there also have been studies confirming that meditation can reduce blood pressure — in healthy people as well as in those with heart disease. And those who meditate report that at the very least it improves their sense of the quality of their lives.

Trouble is, meditation can be frustrating. And many of those who try it, quit.

We are all tangled up, I think, in a distinctly American idea of meditation. We believe there is a right way to do it, a method to be mastered and something to be achieved.

Meditation is, in fact, exactly the opposite of those things. It is not about doing. It is about being. Being still, being quiet and being with yourself for a few minutes each day.

There are a couple of videos on YouTube of yoga students in the resting pose at the end of a class, with hilarious voice-overs of what is going through their minds. Mashed potatoes. Chinese food. That dress on eBay. The guy who hasn’t texted back.

Anybody who has ever tried to meditate will relate immediately. You can drive home from work and upon arrival have absolutely no memory of the commute. But trying not to think about anything pretty much guarantees that you can’t…

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stop thinking about everything.And there are plenty of everyday distractions, too: the cat, the phone, the kids, the husband. All of them are reasons to get up before the rest of the house in order to meditate — another reason to quit.Meditation requires only a seat in a quiet spot, but there is lots of meditation help out there. There is guided meditation in which the voice on the CD or on your iPod talks you through. Concentrating on the instruction helps to shut down at least part of your mind.

And there is music that is perfect for mediation. It not only sets the mood, it helps you concentrate if you try to follow the notes or the voice. And there are sounds to help you meditate: the ocean, rainfall, a brook, birds. Saying prayers or the rosary can be a form of meditation. You can simply follow your breath, in and out.

Meditation has another side effect — besides a healthy resting heart rate or a lower blood pressure. It teaches something called mindfulness — the ability to be in the moment wherever we are, whatever we are doing. A kind of zone in which we are only aware of the person or the task in front of us.

Those people we love can certainly benefit from a little more of our mindfulness — our attention, our focus, our interest in what they are saying or doing. It is what they deserve from us.

There are shelves full of books on meditation written by experts. I am not one of them. And I have started and stopped meditating about as many times as I have started and stopped dieting, but with this difference: I have stopped beating myself up about what might seem like failure in any other endeavor.

In meditation, my yoga teachers tell me, there is no succeeding because there is no doing. There is just being.

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For health benefits, try Tai Chi

The gentle, 2,000-year-old Chinese practice of tai chi is often described as “meditation in motion.” But the Harvard Women’s Health Watch newsletter suggests a more apt description is “medication in motion.”

Tai chi, the most famous branch of Qigong, or exercises that harness the qi (life energy, pronounced “chee”), has been linked to health benefits for virtually everyone from children to seniors. Researchers aren’t sure exactly how, but studies show that tai chi improves the quality of life for breast cancer patients and Parkinson’s sufferers. Its combination of martial arts movements and deep breathing can be adapted even for people in wheelchairs. And it has shown promise in treating sleep problems and high blood pressure.

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Meditation lowers youths’ blood pressure (WebMD)

Miranda Hitti, WebMD: Middle school students reap benefits within 3 months, says study.

Meditation has the power to lower blood pressure, even for healthy young people. All it takes is a little low-cost training and 20 minutes a day, say experts from the Medical College of Georgia.

You don’t even need to say “om.” No particular personal or spiritual beliefs are required. Simply focusing on breathing will do the job, say Frank Treiber, PhD, and colleagues.

Meditation has shown promise against high blood pressure and other concerns including anxiety, stress, depression, and addictions. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends it for people facing high blood pressure. Medications, diet, and exercise can also help control high blood pressure.

The potential for meditation to lower blood pressure in young people is significant, since high blood pressure is creeping into younger age groups. It’s particularly common in some minority groups. For instance, black youths have up to seven times the risk of high blood pressure, say the researchers.

High blood pressure “is no longer considered an adult disease,” write the researchers in the November/December issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Learning healthy habits at a young age equips kids to take good care of themselves as adults. Experts have seen that with nutrition and exercise. Could that also be true for meditation?

Treiber’s team recently tested a meditation program on 73 middle school students in Augusta, Ga. None of the students had high blood pressure. All wore monitors recording their blood pressure at regular intervals, day and night.

A teacher taught half of the group to meditate. The other participants learned about blood pressure in health education classes emphasizing diet and exercise.

The meditating students sat with their eyes closed for 10 minutes, focusing on their breathing. If thoughts intruded, they noticed them and gently returned their focus to their breathing.

The students meditated twice daily — once at school and once at home. More than 85% completed the three-month study.

At the study’s end, their blood pressure was significantly lower. Their resting systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) was down 3.8 points more than the nonmeditating group. Their blood pressure and heart rate during waking hours were also better than the nonmeditators, who had no change or slight increases in those areas.

Stretched into adulthood, those numbers would cut the risk of stroke or heart disease by more than 12%, say the researchers. Since meditation is free and easy to learn, it may deserve a place on school curriculum, they conclude.

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Middle school meditation brings blood pressure down (Center for the Advancement of Health)

Becky Ham, Science Writer: Twenty minutes of daily meditation helped middle schoolers lower their blood pressure and heart rate, a new study from the state of Georgia concludes.

Students who used a simple concentration-based breathing meditation technique significantly reduced their resting and “active” blood pressure, according to Frank A. Treiber, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Medical College of Georgia. Their findings appear in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

The amount of reduction in blood pressure, if maintained over time, “would translate into an approximate 12.5 percent lower predicted risk of stroke or coronary mortality in adulthood,” Treiber says.

Treiber and colleagues say the incidence of high blood pressure “has risen dramatically in recent years among youth,” including a nearly sevenfold increase in high blood pressure among some minority youth.

The study included 73 Augusta, Ga. middle school students who were randomly assigned to participate in the meditation task or a regular health education class. All of the students in the study had normal blood pressure and all wore monitors during the study to gauge their blood pressure and heart rate throughout the day.

Students in the meditation group participated in two 10-minute meditation sessions each day, once in class and once after school, for three months. More than 85 percent of the students attended the school sessions and said they completed the after-class meditation.

The researchers believe meditation may reduce the body’s responses to stress, which would be beneficial for blood pressure and heart rate.

“To date, few studies have evaluated stress reduction interventions on blood pressure in pre-hypertensive youth but findings have been encouraging,” Treiber says.

Treiber and colleagues say more research is needed to see if the positive effects of meditation have a lasting impact on health.

“The breathing meditation technique is easily learned and practiced at virtually no cost,” Treiber says.

Another recent study, Treiber notes, suggests meditation can help reduce behavior problems in the classroom.

“Thus, implementation of such programs in the school setting is not only feasible but may also be desirable because of their impact on school-related conduct as well as possible impact on future health,” he says.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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Yoga gets hearts healthy (WebMD Medical News)

Peggy Peck, WebMD News: Yoga and Meditation 3 Times a Week Improves Heart Disease Risk.

Stretching may do more than make you limber, according to new research from Yale University School of Medicine. Findings show that people who practice yoga and meditation at least three times a week may reduce their blood pressure, pulse and — most importantly — their risk of heart disease.

Moreover, yoga improves heart health in both healthy individuals and those with diagnosed heart disease, says Satish Sivasankaran, MD, who conducted the study while training at Yale. He says that volunteers taking a six-week yoga-meditation program improved blood vessel function by 17%. Blood vessel function, also called endothelial function, is the way vessels contract and expand to aid blood flow and is a measure of healthy vessel function. However, study participants who had heart disease had close to a 70% improvement in endothelial function.

Endothelial function is an important indicator of atherosclerosis because as the disease and plaque build-up progresses, the blood vessels become less supple and less able to constrict and expand…

“Stress is known to increase the risk of coronary events. Both anxiety and type A behavior have been associated with coronary diseases,” Sivasankaran, who is now a cardiology fellow at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., tells WebMD. Yoga and meditation, on the other hand, are often recommended as a way to relieve stress.

The study, which was presented during the opening day of the American Heart Association’s 2004 Scientific Sessions here, is the first to look at the way blood vessels respond to stress.

“The endothelial function improved in the total cohort of patients and was most dramatic in patients already diagnosed with heart disease,” he explains.

And, it doesn’t take years of lotus positions and meditation to see improvement — the study volunteers had measurable improvement in just six weeks, he says. The yoga and meditation program included 40 minutes of postural yoga, 20 minutes of deep relaxation, 15 minutes of yoga breathing, and 15 minutes of meditation.

The study enrolled 33 patients, 30% of whom had heart disease. The study required them to practice yoga and meditation for an hour and a half at least three times a week. More than 60% of the volunteers were men and the average age of the study participants was 55.

The researchers monitored blood pressure, pulse, body mass index (BMI, an indirect measure of body fat used to measure weight), and cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study and again after six weeks.

The researchers used an ultrasound to measure the blood flow in an artery of the arm, he explains.

Yoga Improves Blood Pressure

At the beginning of the study the average blood pressure was 130/79 mmHg. The American Heart Association says that a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mmHg. After six weeks the average blood pressure reading was 125/74 mmHg, which was a significant decrease with yoga and meditation classes. The volunteers also had a modest reduction in BMI — from 29 to 28, and they “had an average reduction in pulse rate of nine beats per minute,” he says.

While people with heart disease had the biggest improvement in blood vessel function, that improvement “was independent of any improvements in blood pressure,” he says. And after six weeks it was the healthy patients who posted the biggest improvements in blood pressure, pulse rate, and BMI.

“Even with a small number of patients for a short period of time there was a benefit of yoga and meditation seen in people with heart disease,” he says. He says, however, that the researchers don’t know the mechanism involved in that benefit, which means that more study is needed.

Gerald F. Fletcher, MD, a cardiovascular disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic Florida in Jacksonville, tells WebMD that “it is probably exercise. There are several studies that suggest that exercise — any kind of exercise — improves oxygen consumption, which improves endothelial function.” Fletcher, who was not involved in the study, is a spokesman for the AHA.

“I’m not sure that meditation has a specific benefit, but if combining meditation with exercise will get people to exercise, then I’m all for it. But the most important message is that exercise works,” Fletcher says.

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Transcendental meditation can help heart (News 8 Austin, Texas)

News 8 Austin, Texas: Dr Brian Olshansky, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the University of Iowa, promotes a healthy diet, regular exercise, and the Transcendental Meditation Programme (TM) to help take control of one’s health and prevent cardiovascular disease. Dr Olshansky is currently treating a group of people who have heart disease with alternative therapies, including TM, yoga, breathing exercises, herbal preparations, and a predominantly vegetarian diet. It is a joy for Global Good News service to feature this news, which indicates the success of the life-supporting programmes Maharishi has designed to bring fulfilment to the field of health.

Although the results of the study are not yet finalized, News 8 Austin reported that Olshansky plans to follow up with a larger study if the results are positive.

The article described the Transcendental Meditation Technique as ‘a simple mental technique that involves deep relaxation and rest. It is usually practiced twice a day, while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.’ The article cited the recently published study wherein patients practising TM lowered both their systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers by an average of nearly four points by performing only two 15-minute sessions each day.

Olshansky said that currently health and heart problems are national epidemics and that although doctors perform cardiac surgery only as a last resort, at least 250,000 people die each year from the operation or from drug interactions. He wants people to avoid getting to that point by utilizing simple lifestyle changes, and techniques such as TM, proper diet, and exercise.

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Meditation as medication (CBS News)

The Saturday Early Show, CBS: More and more people are turning to alternative or non-traditional methods to treat medical conditions.

One such technique, meditation, is gaining popularity as a legitimate medical therapy.

Meditation is the practice of focusing your attention and mind on something that makes your feel calm and relaxed and gives you clarity about your life, says medical contributor Dr. Mallika Marshall.

For thousands of years, people have recognized that meditation has wonderful health and psychological benefits.

The medical community is becoming much more accepting of meditation as a legitimate treatment for many different medical problems, such as anxiety, stress and depression. It’s being used treat all kinds of chronic pain. People are using meditation to try to quit smoking. It’s also being used for alcohol and drug addiction. And the National Institutes of Health is even recommending meditation for high blood pressure. Studies have show also that it can help women who suffer from PMS, menopausal hot flashes and even infertility.

Meditation helps your enter a relaxation state that can lower your heart rate, your blood pressure, slow down your breathing and relax your muscles. Some experts have compared it to a “reset button” for your body.

Meditation is something that most people can safely try on their own, though there are many techniques out there — so you may want to read up on different ways to meditate.

Here is a basic meditation technique to get started. Sit or lie in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Simply focus on your breathing, focusing all your attention on sensation of air moving in and out of your body. The other thing you can do is repeat a single word or phrase either silently or by whispering. Do this for about 20 minutes every day if you can.

In the beginning, your mind will wander and come back to the present, but don’t despair, simply refocus your mind and try again.

Since meditation involves sitting quietly for a period of time and simply breathing, it may be difficult for people who have breathing problems or can’t stay still. People with certain conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or psychosis may not be able to concentrate. And don’t forgo traditional medical treatments in favor or just doing meditation. It should be used to complement any other treatments your doctor has recommended for you.

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