Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: A mantra for heart disease

Heart Beat

A mantra for heart disease

Claims that meditation may help prevent, slow, or even reverse heart disease got a boost in the summer of 2006 from a California research team. It found that clearing the mind for 20 minutes twice a day may help lower blood pressure and improve the body's ability to control blood sugar. High blood pressure and high blood sugar are part of the metabolic syndrome, a cluster of five closely related cardiovascular risk factors. The others are a large waist, high triglycerides, and low HDL (good) cholesterol. Each is dangerous in its own right. When they occur together, the overall risk is greater than the sum of its parts.

In the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, 52 men and women with stable heart disease learned transcendental meditation (TM) and did it for four months. Another 51 didn't meditate but took classes on controlling heart disease. The meditators showed greater improvements in blood pressure and blood sugar control. They also showed slightly less activation of the body's stress system.

The results, which were published in the June 12, 2006, Archives of Internal Medicine, help fuel the thinking that activation of the body's complex stress pathways somehow contributes to heart disease.

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