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Dr. Robert Schneider explains the new approach to tackling heart disease
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18 June 2017
Dr. Robert Schneider's career of paradigm shifting work has been centered on preventing disease and promoting health naturally. Hence the series of studies on Transcendental Meditation which Dr. Schneider and his colleagues have conducted to uncover how to effectively tackle heart disease.
Robert H. Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., is a physician, scientist, educator, and one of the world's leading authorities on scientific, natural approaches for heart disease, high blood pressure, stress, and other cardiovascular risk factors.* Over the past decades, he has directed more than $20 million in research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US. The results of this groundbreaking research have been published in more than 100 academic articles.
Merging the best of East and West: How to restore the mind-body connection?
''My perspective in medicine has always been to bring together the ancient holistic knowledge from the East with the modern science of medicine from the West,'' Dr. Schneider explains.
''During my training at the beginning of the 1980's, I was doing research on hypertension at the University of Michigan. At that time the idea that a stressed mind can cause a stressed heart was popular.
''I started to think: 'If the mind can cause disease, maybe the mind can also prevent disease? If you change your mind, maybe you can change your heart?' That's how I got into studying if the Transcendental Meditation technique could reverse the ill effects of the mind-body connection on the heart.
''That was all very new. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) had never funded any research on anything we now call alternative medicine as far as I knew. But I thought: 'Those pilot studies are there, there's a good rationale, let's try it!'
''I applied to NIH in 1988 and got the first grant from the U.S. government ever for research on Transcendental Meditation. After that it snowballed. We became a national center of excellence in research on complementary and alternative medicine for heart health.''
The mind can damage and the mind can heal
''There are two systems that connect the brain and the heart. One is the sympathetic nervous system which has origins in the brain. When you get emotionally excited or mentally stressed, it speeds up the heart rate, raises blood pressure, releases adrenaline and noradrenalin,'' Dr. Schneider says.
''When this part of the nervous system is chronically activated, it damages the blood vessel walls, leading to their thickening which is called arteriosclerosis.
''The other way the mind is connected to the body is through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. When the brain gets distressed, there's more of cortisol released and that also not only damages the blood vessels and the heart, but also suppresses the immune system and damages other organs.
''If, however, we modify the brain we can in principle modify those physiological pathways. We can reduce activation in both the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.''
Click here to watch Dr. Schneider's lecture at the Heart Foundation in Queensland, Australia, from which this article is drawn.
Transcendental Meditation in action
''One can demonstrate in the laboratory that Transcendental Meditation does lower the over-activation of these two systems.
''We extended the theory by hypothesizing that if that was true, then stress-related cardiovascular disease could be improved with a stress reducing practice such as the Transcendental Meditation technique. So we conducted these studies which indeed showed that you can lower your own blood pressure with your mind. Manage your mind, manage your blood pressure!
''High blood pressure is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke because the arteries get damaged and narrowed and finally blocked. The blockage of arteries in heart and the brain together are the number one cause of death in the world.
''To see the long term effects of TM's ability to lower blood pressure, we studied a group of patients with heart disease. Half of them learned TM, half of them served as the control group. We followed them for five years. Those doing TM had 48% lower rate of heart attack, stroke and death.
''That was another big breakthrough—showing that people could live longer and have less of this disease with TM.''
Getting the body to self-repair
''One could say that calming the mind helps the body to self-repair.
''In one study, we measured the arteriosclerosis in the neck by ultrasound. Over one year there was a reversal of thickening of the arteries in those practicing TM and progression of arteriosclerosis in the control group.
''We also know now that you can influence how your DNA expresses itself, what stays silent, what gets activated. The first study on how transcending affects genes showed that it increased telomerase, an enzyme that helps to rebuild protective caps on the ends of chromosomes.
''Transcendental Meditation is not the only thing that affects telomerase production. Healthy lifestyle does this too and is also very useful, but even just managing the mind alone seems to have that positive effect on telomerase production.'' . . .
Witnessing the shifts in paradigm
''There has been a big change in the field of medicine. Now the idea that meditation affects health has become mainstream. Integrative medicine, now a big buzzword, was not even invented ten years ago. Even the concepts of complementary and alternative medicine came about only in the 1990s.
''I have been able to witness over the decades an evolution in the field of mind-body medicine, particularly related to heart health, beginning with the impact of Type A behavior on heart health and now moving into integrative prevention and treatment.
''And today, we have bachelors, masters, PhD and postgraduate courses dedicated to the knowledge on mind-body connection.''
Next paradigm shifts in medicine?
''The next big paradigm is the change in medical education. We are working on different levels of medical education, post-graduate medical education and with people who are already doctors.
''I think the next generation of doctors will be very different from the current generation of doctors because they will have had from the beginning of their training exposure to these ideas about the mind-body connection, the role of consciousness in health and how they can have the scientific bases and how they can be used in modern practice.
''So it's a change in understanding, knowledge about these kinds of technologies, which are not to replace but be used as part of the package in modern medicine.
''Half of medical schools in the U.S. now have departments or centers of integrative medicine and all require at least some study of complementary and alternative medicine.
''I believe this trend in U.S. is being picked up by other countries around the world. We have visitors here every month from medical centers from Asia or Europe.''
The perks of Transcendental Meditation
''For me, personally, meditation gives energy, vitality and clarity of mind to accomplish what I'd like to accomplish.
''That state of restful alertness, what Dr. Norman Rosenthal calls 'Supermind', helps me figure out what to do and where to go next. I always have to make strategic decisions, building organizations, programs, projects, affecting policies, negotiating, lobbying, publishing and teaching. In all those activities you need a lot of creativity, organizing power, persistence and drive from within,'' Dr. Schneider says.
And indeed, the practice helps Dr. Schneider keep doing pioneering work. He is currently working on a book on how modern scientific discoveries and ancient holistic traditions can reverse aging.
Source: Adapted from TMhome.com
Copyright © 2017 TMhome
* Dr Schneider is Dean of the College of Integrative Medicine, Director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, and Professor of Physiology and Health at Maharishi University of Management, USA.
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