Harvard Heart Letter

Can calming your mind help your heart?

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Meditation practices vary, but most involve quiet, focused attention, during
which you close your eyes and direct your
consciousness on breathing, an
object, or a word or phrase known
as a mantra. Transcendental meditation
uses techniques that encourage the mind to
"transcend" thoughts; mindfulness
meditation encourages you to focus on the
present moment. For more information,
see www.helpguide.org/harvard/mindfulness.htm

Meditation offers promising benefits for the cardiovascular system.

Many people practice meditation in hopes of staving off stress and stress-related health problems, including heart disease. While some studies of meditation's mental and physical benefits haven't been the most scientifically rigorous, research strongly suggests that this ancient, mind-calming practice can help lower blood pressure—and offers hints of other benefits for the entire cardiovascular system.

"The evidence that chronic stress is pretty toxic for the cardiovascular system is mounting," says Dr. Laura Kubzansky, a professor of social and behavioral science at the Harvard School of Public Health. Mitigating that stress is probably helpful, she says, but the quality of evidence to support meditation's benefits is relatively weak, for a number of reasons. Funding for meditation research is scarce, and studies sometimes lack appropriate control groups or aren't well designed.

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