Does Meditation Really Impact Heart Health? What Research Shows
Several studies indicate that meditation helps various conditions. Doctors often recommend guided meditation for heart health as a supportive treatment. Although meditation is renowned for its stress-reducing benefits, some experts suggest it can also impact heart health.
By Beth Rush
Managing Editor, BodyMind.com
What Does Research Say About Meditation and Heart Health?
Stress impacts people differently — for some individuals, stress poses significant risks to their cardiovascular health. For instance, one study showed a 10% to 40% increased risk of heart disease and stroke from work-related stress [Note 1].
Another study found a higher prevalence of ischaemic heart disease, hypertension, arrhythmia, and heart failure in people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) .
Although doctors have long touted diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids as a healthy approach to reducing cardiovascular risks and conditions, new research indicates that meditation also benefits the heart .
One 2019 clinical study that examined patients with depression and anxiety, diabetes, and smoking history showed that after eight weeks of meditation, for two hours weekly, patients had significantly lower blood pressure readings .
The possibility that meditation positively impacts heart health isn’t much of a stretch, especially considering its effect on other conditions. For instance, meditating to 40-hertz vibrational acoustics for 30 minutes three times weekly for four weeks helped one Alzheimer’s patient recall the names of loved ones.
Experts also recommend a meditation practice before bed to improve sleep quality. Those with chronic pain or insomnia could benefit from a five-minute meditation for a more restful night.
How Does Meditation Slow Heart Rate?
A 2013 American Heart Association report found that the average heart rate after meditation was lowered significantly — there was a 4.7-milligram (mm) reduction of mercury in systolic blood pressure and a 3.2 mm reduction in diastolic blood pressure .
Of course, this phenomenon begs the question, “How does meditation slow heart rate?” Another study found that a weekly 1.5-hour meditation stimulated the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing the heart rate for enhanced relaxation and rest .
Fear, anxiety, stress and pain may also cause your heart rate to speed up. However, one study on Transcendental Meditation suggests that meditation significantly affects patients with high anxiety more than most standard and alternative treatments . However, you should always listen to your medical practitioner’s advice before trying something different from your mental health management plan.
A Guided Meditation for Heart Health
Everyone can meditate regardless of their condition or background. Follow these easy steps for a guided meditation for heart health.
- Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, taking a deep diaphragmatic breath into the belly and allowing your thoughts to disappear.
- Stay focused on your heart energy, drawing awareness to the heart and the space around it.
- As you focus on the heart and chest cavity, begin taking long, slow, gentle breaths, imagining every inhale and exhale moving into your heart and out.
- In your mind, ask the heart what it needs or set an intention for your meditation, such as “My heart is healthy and strong” or “My heart is full of love and light.”
- Meditate for five to 10 minutes, just breathing silently. Mentally tell intrusive thoughts to go away — this is normal.
Once you’ve finished your meditation practice, slowly open your eyes and take stock of your physical and emotional feelings.
Greater Relaxation for Heart Health
Regularly meditating could have positive outcomes for heart health — even indirectly. Building a more relaxed state could slow down your heart rate and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.
Disclaimer: No content on this site should ever be used as a substitute for medical advice from a qualified health practitioner
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Author | Buddha Weekly
Beth Rush is the Managing Editor and content manager at Body+Mind. She is a well-respected writer in the personal wellness space and shares knowledge on a variety of topics related to nutrition, holistic health, and mental health. You can find Beth on Twitter @bodymindmag.