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Meditation helps to lower blood pressure

Taking part in programs designed to modify behavior, such as anger management training and transcendental meditation sessions, seems to have a measurable impact on blood pressure in African Americans, according to preliminary results of the Health Education and Diet, Stress Management and Anger Reduction Therapy (HEAD SMART) study.

"Blood pressure, at least from the anger management and transcendental meditation (groups), is being reduced on average by 12 millimeters mercury (mm Hg) systolic and 7 to 8 millimeters mercury diastolic," said Lollis, a professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.

In this study, the researchers had specially trained certified health educators, a mental health therapist, and a certified transcendental meditation (TM) instructor, study co-author Dr. Kofi Kondwani, administer the various interventions. Study participants spent 13 weekly sessions learning anger management skills, or health behavior modifications, or TM.

Lollis pointed out that even in the lifestyle modification group, which was taught about diet and nutrition and other health behaviors but did not receive anger management or training, blood pressure was reduced by 8 mm Hg systolic and 6 mm Hg diastolic.

Blood pressure levels are recorded by two numbers, the upper or systolic and the lower, or diastolic. The upper number measures the pressure of the heart during a contraction while the lower number is a reflection of the heart at rest, between beats.

Lollis and her colleagues plan to look at the long-term effects of these techniques, as well. "After 3 months (of the study), we showed significant effects, but what happens when you don't have the formal meetings...with the instructor?" she speculated. "Will the individuals continue to participate in the intervention on their own or will we start to find compliance drop?"

As to whether other diseases may also be affected by these interventions, Lollis said her team is about "to embark upon (a study) looking at the effects of TM for reducing atherosclerosis," that is, fatty plaque formation on artery walls.

"If we can take these interventions and use them (to prevent disease)," she commented, "then we can reduce some of the excess burden of healthcare costs and illness...particularly in African Americans who are so disproportionately represented among the leading causes of death."

- More articles on Meditation

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