Meditation can complement but doesn’t replace a heart-healthy lifestyle

A new report from the American Heart Association has found that meditation is an effective complementary method for reducing the risk of heart disease, however following a healthy lifestyle and diet and doctor’s orders are still the main ways of staying heart-healthy.

Meditation-YogapantsMany recent studies have already looked into the health benefits of meditation, finding that it can have a long-term effect on the brain. With this in mind the American Heart Association set out to review 57 current high-quality scientific studies to determine whether the practice could also help to reduce heart disease.

The review looked at common types of sitting meditation including Samatha; Vipassana (Insight Meditation); Mindful Meditation; Zen Meditation (Zazen); Raja Yoga; Loving-Kindness (Metta); Transcendental Meditation; and Relaxation Response.

The researchers chose to exclude studies on mind-body practices such as yoga and Tai Chi however, as the physical activity included in these practices already has an established positive impact on heart disease risk.

The results showed that meditation may be associated with various health improvements, including decreased levels of stress, anxiety and depression, and improved quality of sleep and overall well-being.

It may also help individuals stop smoking, and may help lower blood pressure, although the team pointed out that there is not enough evidence to determine whether it will be effective, or by how much, in a given individual.

With regards to its effect on heart diseases, the review did suggest that the practice may be linked 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.

“Although studies of meditation suggest a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk, there hasn’t been enough research to conclude it has a definite role,” commented Glenn N. Levine, MD, one of the authors of the review, “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.”

“However, it’s important that people understand that the benefits remain to be better established and that meditation is not a substitute for traditional medical care,” concluded Levine, adding that lifestyle advice and medical treatment such as cholesterol therapy, blood pressure control, smoking cessation and regular physical activity, is the best and most-researched way to reduce the risk.

The findings can be found published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.


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