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Experts explain benefits of Transcendental Meditation Programme for high blood pressure
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7 January 2009

The new interactive website 'ASK THE DOCTORS' ( features input from top medical doctors and scientists concerning various health conditions. Among other topics addressed, experts answer questions from the public regarding use of the Transcendental Meditation Programme for alleviation of high blood pressure.

Here Drs. Kaplan and Barnes answer questions on blood pressure and the Transcendental Meditation Programme.

Gary P. Kaplan, M.D., Ph.D., is a neurologist and associate professor of clinical neurology at New York University School of Medicine. He is also a recipient of the Albert H. Douglas Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York for outstanding achievements as a clinical teacher interested in promoting and improving the medical education of physicians.

Vernon Barnes, Ph.D., is a researcher at the Georgia Prevention Institute of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, which received $1.5 million from the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on African American teens at risk for high blood pressure.

Q: Is there evidence that the Transcendental Meditation program alone can lower high blood pressure?

Dr. Kaplan: Several studies on both teenagers (American Journal of Hypertension, 2004) and elderly adults (Hypertension, 1999) have demonstrated that high blood pressure is reduced even after a few months of twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique. The need for antihypertensive medication is reduced and sometimes eliminated. Anyone on medication who starts practicing the TM technique should follow up regularly with their physician to monitor this positive effect on blood pressure and the need for continued medication.

Q: How does the Transcendental Meditation technique lower blood pressure?

Dr. Barnes: Stress has been implicated in the development of hypertension. This has been documented through epidemiological blood pressure studies; naturalistic studies of the relationship among blood pressure, psychology, and everyday life events; and experimental studies of cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to behavioral stimuli.

The mind and body are very intimately connected. The subjective experience of the Transcendental Meditation technique is one of mental relaxation and peacefulness combined with inner wakefulness. The meditation response is very rapid, and the most clear-cut effects have been seen after 15-30 minutes of practice. The mental relaxation elicits physiological relaxation; that is, when the mind settles down, the body gains deep rest.

Q: How long is it necessary to meditate before you can see benefits on blood pressure?

Dr. Barnes: The benefits can be immediate, but since every person is different it is not possible to predict exactly how soon blood pressure will drop. In most cases, the research has shown that within 1-2 months there is a significant drop in blood pressure if it has been too high.

Q: How do you see this treatment developing in the future?

Dr. Barnes: There is a great potential for doctors to prescribe the Transcendental Meditation program to their patients, especially for those who are stressed or suffering from stress-related disorders. This technique has been viewed as having the highest potential to change clinical practice from the perspective of treatment.

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