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Meditation technique appears to cut mortality, heart attack and stroke among heart disease patients

Written by | 5 Feb 2013 | All Medical News

Patients with heart disease who practiced transcendental meditation regularly over a 5-year period were 48 percent less likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die from all causes compared to other similarly diagnosed non-meditating patients, researchers reported on Nov. 13 in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

All of the subjects were African-American.

“We hypothesized that reducing stress by managing the mind-body connection would help improve rates of this epidemic disease,” said Robert Schneider, M.D., lead researcher and director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa.

Dr. Schneider and colleagues from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee randomized 201 subjects to participate in a transcendental meditation stress-reducing program or a health education class about modifications in diet and exercise.

At baseline, average body mass index was about 32. Almost 60 percent of subjects in both cohorts took cholesterol-lowering drugs, and 41 percent of the meditation group and 31 percent of the health education group took aspirin. Also, 38 percent of the meditation group and 43 percent of the health education group smoked.

Subjects in the meditation group learned the transcendental meditation technique of sitting with eyes closed for about 20 minutes twice a day, letting their minds and bodies to rest while remaining alert.

Participants in the health education group were trained to spend at least 20 minutes a day practicing heart-healthy behaviors such as exercise, healthy meal preparation and nonspecific relaxation.

The researchers evaluated participants at baseline, at three months and every six months thereafter for body mass index, diet, program adherence, blood pressure and cardiovascular hospitalizations.

Among all subjects, there were 52 primary end point events of heart attack, stroke or death from all causes. Twenty events occurred in the meditation group and 32 in the health education group.

“Transcendental Meditation may reduce heart disease risks for both healthy people and those with diagnosed heart conditions,” said Dr. Schneider. “The research on Transcendental Meditation and cardiovascular disease is established well enough that physicians may safely and routinely prescribe stress reduction for their patients with this easy to implement, standardized and practical program,” he added.

The (U.S.) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute funded the study.

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