Meditation Technique Helps
Lower Blood Pressure
Transcendental meditation is an effective
alternative to blood pressure-lowering medication, according to
the results of a study involving African Americans.
People may choose to try to lower
their blood pressure naturally, "but it matters what you do,"
study author Dr. Robert H. Schneider of the Maharishi University
of Management in Iowa stated. "Not everything has the same effect."
"You can lower your blood pressure
naturally using a particular mind-body technique, transcendental
meditation," Schneider said.
Transcendental meditation (TM)
is a technique for calming the body and mind. "It does not involve
any change in philosophy, religion, or lifestyle," Schneider said,
but is simply an "effortless" technique that allows one to be
"wide awake but not thinking" -- i.e., in a state of "restful
African Americans are known to
have disproportionately higher rates of coronary heart disease,
stroke and kidney disease than whites. Research has also shown
that African Americans tend to have more severe high blood pressure
as well as lower rates of treatment. The reason for the higher
rates of hypertension among blacks is unknown, but reports suggest
that psychosocial stress may play a role.
Previous research has touted the
benefits of transcendental meditation on blood pressure. In the
current study, Schneider and his colleagues compared the effects
of meditation and two other stress reduction techniques among
150 African-American men and women receiving treatment for high
Study participants were divided
into groups that, along with their usual medical care, participated
in 20 minutes of transcendental meditation, progressive muscle
relaxation, or conventional health education classes twice daily.
Their blood pressures were measured periodically at three-month
Men and women who practiced transcendental
meditation showed the greatest decreases in blood pressure, decreases
that were sustained for over a year, the researchers report in
the American Journal of Hypertension.
The meditation technique also appeared
to help decrease study participants' need for blood pressure-lowering
medications. In contrast, those in the muscle relaxation group
and those who participated in the conventional classes used more
medication than they had initially, the report indicates.
Women who practiced the meditation
technique had much greater decreases in their total blood pressure
than those in the other two groups, whereas men in the meditation
group had a greater decrease in diastolic blood pressure -- the
lower reading -- only, in comparison to those in the health education
classes. Also, there did not seem to be any difference between
men who used meditation and those who used muscle relaxation to
The reason for the discrepancy
between men's and women's results is unknown. The researchers'
"best hypothesis" is that "women practiced (the meditation technique)
more regularly," Schneider said.
In other findings, the meditation
technique also "seemed to have a holistic effect," Schneider said.
In addition to lowered blood pressure, some study participants
said their psychological health and well being also improved.
"It seems that this is a technique
to wake up the body's own healing abilities," Schneider said.
While the study group was limited
to African Americans, Schneider believes the results are generalizable
to other groups as well. Transcendental meditation is a practical
technique for the prevention of heart disease, he said.
Its "self-management technique"
allows people to avoid "the harmful side effects of medication
and to save costs as well," since it does not require any external
equipment or frequent contact with the healthcare system, Schneider
The study was funded by the National
Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Center for Complementary
and Alternative Medicine.
Reference Source 89
February 25, 2005