07 December 2007

Meditation helps lower BP

A new study shows that Transcendental Meditation is more effective at reducing high blood pressure than other stress-reduction programmes.

People with high blood pressure may find relief from Transcendental Meditation, according to a definitive new meta-analysis of 107 published studies on stress reduction programmes and high blood pressure, which will be published in the USA in the December issue of Current Hypertension Reports.

The Transcendental Meditation technique produces a statistically significant reduction in high blood pressure that is not found with other forms of relaxation, meditation, biofeedback or stress management.

The findings will have profound relevance to South Africa, where statistics reveal an emerging pattern of heart disease in the African population.

How the study was done
The new meta-analysis reviewed randomised, controlled trials of all stress reduction and relaxation methods in participants with high blood pressure that have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Blood pressure changes for the Transcendental Meditation technique included average reductions of 5.0 points on systolic blood pressure and 2.8 on diastolic blood pressure, which were statistically significant, according to the review. The other stress reduction programs did not show significant changes in blood pressure.

Blood pressure changes associated with Transcendental Meditation practice were consistent with other controlled studies showing reductions in high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors, improved markers of heart disease, and reduced mortality rates among participants in the Transcendental Meditation programme.

The new meta-analysis was conducted by researchers at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and at the NIH-funded Institute of Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management.

What the new findings show
According to Dr James Anderson, professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky and co-author of the new meta-analysis, the findings of the new review rebut a July 2007 report concluded that most research on meditation is low quality and found little evidence that any specific stress reduction effectively lowers blood pressure.

Anderson said the new meta-analysis includes only high quality studies on all available stress reduction interventions.

The magnitude of the changes in blood pressure with the Transcendental Meditation technique is at least as great as the changes found with major changes in diet or exercise that doctors often recommend, Anderson said.

Yet Transcendental Meditation does not require changes in lifestyle. Thus many patients with mild hypertension or pre-hypertension may be able to avoid the need to take blood pressure medications all of which have adverse side effects.

Individuals with more severe forms of hypertension may be able to reduce the number or dosages of their BP medications under the guidance of their doctor.

'Reduces rates of heart attack and stroke'
Anderson added that long-term changes in blood pressure of this magnitude are associated with at least a 15 per cent reduction in rates of heart attack and stroke.

The study's biostatistician, Maxwell Rainforth, assistant professor of Physiology and Health Statistics at Maharishi University of Management, said the meta-analysis used state-of-the-art statistical methods to review 107 published studies in the field of stress reduction, relaxation and blood pressure.

"The twenty-three separate studies included in the final analysis met well-known criteria for high scientific quality. That is, these studies used repeated blood pressure measurements and participants were randomised to either a stress reduction technique or placebo-type control for at least eight weeks. The data we used are all published in peer-reviewed scientific journals," Rainforth said.

According to Dr Robert Schneider, director of the Institute of Natural Medicine and Prevention and co-author, this rigorously conducted meta-analysis indicates that the Transcendental Meditation programme is distinctively effective compared to other scientifically studied techniques in lowering high blood pressure.

In addition, related studies show an integrated set of positive 'side benefits'," such as reduced stress, reduced heart disease levels and longer lifespan with this technique to restore balance in the cardiovascular system, mind and body," Schneider said. – (Sapa)

Read more:
Meditation helps beat stress
Meditation beats RA blues


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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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