Meditation May Reduce Anxiety and Improve Cardiovascular Health

It sounds like a late-night commercial: In just one hour you can reduce your anxiety levels and some heart health risk factors. But a recent study with 14 participants shows preliminary data that even a single session of meditation can have cardiovascular and psychological benefits for adults with mild to moderate anxiety.

In a recent study  “Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Aortic Pulsatile Load and Anxiety in Mild to Moderately Anxious Adults,” John Durocher, along with fellow researchers at Michigan Tech Hannah Marti, Brigitte Morin, lecturer in biological science, and Travis Wakeham, a graduate student, explains the finding that 60 minutes after meditating the 14 study participants showed lower resting heart rates and reduction in aortic pulsatile load—the amount of change in blood pressure between diastole and systole of each heartbeat multiplied by heart rate. Additionally, shortly after meditating, and even one week later, the group reported anxiety levels were lower than pre-meditation levels. “Even a single hour of meditation appears to reduce anxiety and some of the markers for cardiovascular risk,” Durocher says.

While it’s well-documented that meditation over the course of several weeks reduces anxiety, there have been few comprehensive research studies on the benefits of a single meditation session. Durocher’s team wanted to understand the effect of acute mindfulness on cognition and the cardiovascular system to improve how anti-anxiety therapies and interventions are designed.

The mindfulness study to include three sessions:

  • An orientation session during which researchers measured anxiety using the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) and conducted cardiovascular testing by measuring heart rate variability, resting blood pressure and pulse wave analysis;
  • A meditation session that included repetition of the cardiovascular testing plus the mindfulness meditation—20 minutes introductory meditation, 30 minutes body scan and 10 minutes self-guided meditation—as well as repeating cardiovascular measurements immediately following meditation and 60 minutes after;
  • A post-meditation anxiety test one week later.

The single session mindfulness meditation study and the NIH-funded study to come, are excellent examples of the emphasis on student participation in research at Michigan’s northern-most public university.

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