Experts say that meditation may help reduce some risk factors for heart disease. A statement released by the American Heart Association announced that the AHA has systematically reviewed the data on the potential benefits of meditation on cardiovascular risk. Neurophysiological and neuroanatomical studies demonstrate that meditation can have long‐standing effects on the brain, which provide some biological plausibility for beneficial consequences on the physiological basal state and on cardiovascular risk.
The statement, also noted that a healthy lifestyle and medicines to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other heart threats are the most effective ways to prevent heart disease. More than $200 billion is spent on heart disease patients in the U.S. each year, so there’s great interest in looking for inexpensive ways to help reduce people’s risk of the disease, according to the review.
The practice of meditation dates as far back as 5000 BC. Although associated with Eastern philosophies and religion, including Buddhism and Hinduism, references or inferences regarding meditation and the meditative process can be found in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Over the past several decades, meditation is increasingly practiced as a secular and therapeutic activity.
The researchers included studies on many different types of meditation, including mindful meditation, Zen meditation, relaxation response and transcendental meditation. In general, most forms of meditation that the researchers looked at are practiced for at least 20 minutes, or once or twice a day.
The researchers found that meditation may be linked to decreased levels of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as improved sleep quality and overall well-being. Stress, anxiety, depression and poor sleep may be linked to heart disease risk, according to the review. Meditation may also help people stop smoking, the review found.
In addition, the practice may help lower blood pressure, although the researchers noted that there’s not enough evidence to show how much it would lower blood pressure in a given individual, if at all.
Finally, the review noted that although there is some evidence that meditation may decrease a person’s risk of a heart attack, more research is 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,” said Dr. Glenn Levine, chair of the statement writing group.
The statement was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.