Transcendental Meditation and Your Blood Pressure
A reader with high blood pressure asks: Will relieving stress help control high blood pressure? Which stress reduction technique has the most evidence backing it up? Here’s the reply from Johns Hopkins.
In stressful situations, your body releases hormones like epinephrine that cause your blood pressure to rise and your heart rate to accelerate. Whether chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure is less clear. Still, reducing stress may help you follow other lifestyle recommendations and maintain other healthy habits.
Stress reduction techniques include exercising regularly; practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, guided imagery, or meditation; lightening your work or personal schedule; and having a strong social network of friends and family. Some activities that people believe lower stress — drinking too much alcohol and smoking — actually increase blood pressure.
The effects of stress on blood pressure are controversial. Likewise, it is unclear if stress-reduction techniques, such as biofeedback, yoga, and tai chi, help lower blood pressure.
But one method of reducing stress called Transcendental Meditation (TM) has the most evidence. Developed more than 50 years ago, TM involves sitting quietly for 20-minute periods, twice a day, and repeating a one-syllable word called a mantra to relax the mind.
The effects of TM on blood pressure were recently evaluated in a meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Hypertension. When the researchers considered three high-quality, randomized, controlled trials of TM in people with high blood pressure, they found that this form of meditation reduced systolic blood pressure by 6 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 3 mm Hg. TM likely lowers blood pressure because of its effects on the nervous system, slowing heart rate and reducing tension in the muscles.
If you are interested in trying TM, you can learn how to do it through books, audiotapes, and DVDs. You may also find a certified instructor giving classes in your area. Keep in mind, however, that TM is not a substitute for the lifestyle measures or medications proven to lower blood pressure. But trying it will cause you no harm.
Comments Johns Hopkins Health Alert Transcendental Meditation and Your Blood Pressure
Congratulations on this sound advice. However, contrary to what was stated at the end of this article, the Transcendental Meditation® technique as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of TM, cannot be learned “through books, audiotapes, and DVDs,” only through “a certified instructor giving classes in your area.” For a qualified TM instructor in your area, call: 1-888-LEARN TM (1-888-532-7686) http://www.tm.org.
It is also wise advice to not “substitute for the lifestyle measures or medications proven to lower blood pressure.” Most medications tend to mask or modify symptoms, and even though they may appear to be reduced, once medications are stopped, symptoms may return.
On the other hand, regular TM practice has been shown to have an accumulative effect—it seems to normalize the nervous system over time by dissolving deeply rooted stresses, the underlying cause of most disease conditions, thereby reducing the need for continued medication over time.
However, just as it is important to not self-medicate, so is it important to not abruptly stop your medications. Continue to have your physician monitor your blood pressure levels, and reduce the need for drugs as appropriate. Indeed, TM “will cause you no harm.” It may even prevent future heart attacks and strokes. Previous, and on-going studies continue bear this out. See Ask The Doctors: Specialists answer your questions about the Transcendental Meditation® program and health. http://askthedoctors.com
Posted by: kennyji | November 5, 2009
Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer
WebMD posted an article on health benefits of Transcendental Meditation
For more information on the application of TM in people’s lives, see: Norman Rosenthal spoke in Chicago on Light and Transcendence—alternative modalities to reduce stress, optimize health