THE BLOG

Meditation and Stress Relief

01/17/2012 06:20 pm ET | Updated Mar 18, 2012

Every time your heart beats, it sends blood filled with oxygen and nutrition through the arteries to reach your entire body. By the time you reach age 80, your heart will have done this more than three billion times. Your entire cardiovascular system, which includes the heart and blood vessels, works in harmony to send blood to every part of your body. When stress occurs, your body releases hormones (epinephrine and norepinephrine), which causes your heart to pump faster, your arteries to constrict, and raise your blood pressure. Prolonged periods of stress can cause permanent damage to the cardiovascular system.

Researchers have suggested at least six different ways that psychological stress can kill you, all of which involve some sort of damage to the heart or arteries.[1] Cardiovascular disease (CVD) occurs when damaged arteries impact the amount of blood reaching the heart, making it so the heart itself is not getting enough blood. One common cause of CVD is stress.

The American Heart Association and other professional organizations recommend non-drug lifestyle changes as the first line of treatment for people with high blood pressure and as part of treatment for cardiovascular diseases. Transcendental Meditation (TM) has been suggested in a variety of studies to help reduce blood pressure, hypertension and other symptoms of psychological stressors.[2][3]

In Transcendence, I present many of these studies, but I'd like to close with this one from the University of Kentucky. Jim Anderson and his colleagues from the University of Kentucky published a meta-analysis in which they pooled data from nine published, well-controlled trials that involved 711 people.[4] Each person started with some baseline measurements: hypertensive, borderline hypertensive, or normotensive (normal blood pressure). Overall, in the study of these 711 people, blood pressure had dropped significantly in all of the groups that were practicing TM compared to the control group that was not practicing TM.

Beyond the emotional and mental benefits, it's clear that Transcendental Meditation can have an extraordinary impact on your physical-well being as well.

Wishing you Light and Transcendence,

Norman

For more by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D., click here.

For more on meditation, click here.

References:

[1] Merz CNB et al. "Psychosocial stress and cardiovascular disease." Behavioral Medicine, 27 (Winter 2002): 141-147.

[2] Eppley KR et al. "Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-anaylsis." Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45 (6): 957-973, 1989.

[3] Nidich SI et al. "A randomized controlled trial on effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on blood pressure, psychological distress and coping in young adults." American Journal of Hypertension, 12: 1326-31, 2009.

[4] Anderson JW et al. "Blood pressure response to transcendental meditation: A meta-analysis." American Journal of Hypertension, 21:310-316, 2008.