Natural Health News — Meditation has the potential to reduce several of the risk factors for heart disease, according to a new official statement from the American Heart Association (AHA).
Studies have shown that meditation can have long-term effects on the brain and how it works, and numerous studies on the potential benefits of meditation have been published.
This prompted the AHA to review current high-quality scientific studies to determine whether the practice has a role in reducing heart disease.
Although the practice of meditation dates back as far as 5000 BC and is associated with certain philosophies and religions, meditation is increasingly practiced as a secular and therapeutic activity.
Around 8% of Americans practice some sort of meditation, according to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The same survey also found that 17% of patients with cardiovascular disease expressed an interest in participating in a clinical trial of meditation.
Health and well-being benefits
» A review by the American Heart Association have found that meditation can help reduce some of the risk factors for heart disease.
» Specifically it may improve stress and sleep, lower blood pressure and help people quit smoking.
» Some evidence also suggests it can lower the risk of future heart attacks.
» The review panel suggests that meditation is an effective low cost intervention that can work alongside other approaches.
The current research review for the AHA was done by cardiovascular disease experts and a neuroscientist who reviewed existing research on whether common types of sitting meditation had an impact on cardiovascular risk factors and disease.
The analysis excluded studies on combination mind-body practices, such as yoga and Tai Chi, since the physical activity included in these practices has an established positive impact on heart disease risk.
The studies of sitting meditation, including a variety of common forms such as: Samatha; Vipassana (Insight Meditation); Mindful Meditation; Zen Meditation (Zazen); Raja Yoga; Loving-Kindness (Metta); Transcendental Meditation; and Relaxation Response showed that meditation may:
Meditation might be associated with a decreased risk of heart attack, although there are only a few studies on this, and more studies are needed before any conclusions can be made.
A low risk treatment
“Despite numerous advances in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the US and developing world,” said Glenn N. Levine, MD, a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and chair of the writing group of the AHA Scientific Statement that is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association
“Since education on how to meditate is widely available and meditation has little if any risk associated with it, interested people may want to use these techniques, in addition to established medical and lifestyle interventions, as a possible way to lower heart disease risk.”
Levine notes that the gold standard for the prevention and treatment of heart disease remains lifestyle advice and medical treatment that has been carefully studied and shown to work, including cholesterol therapy, blood pressure control, smoking cessation and regular physical activity.
However, he adds, “Meditation, which is becoming increasingly popular and recognized for its benefits, may be an inexpensive and widely available adjunct to standard therapies for reduction of cardiovascular risk.”
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