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Mechanisms for reduction of hypertension through Transcendental Meditation described

Ask the Doctors    Translate This Article
2 July 2011

Physiologist and research scientist Vernon Barnes, PhD,* discusses causes of hypertension and heart disease, and possible mechanisms responsible for the reduction of blood pressure found in different age groups and at-risk populations through the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.

In this article, fourth in a series, Dr Barnes answers questions on these topics, as part of a discussion among several medical professionals featured on the website Ask the Doctors.

Q: What are the possible causes of hypertension and heart disease? 

Dr. Barnes:
Factors such as advancing age, genetic predisposition, being overweight, and living a sedentary lifestyle—along with dietary factors such as too much salt and sodium—are commonly attributed as the cause of high blood pressure. Exaggerated cardiovascular reactivity to stress, due to exposure to both chronic and acute psychosocial and environmental stressors, has also been hypothesized as playing a particularly significant role in the development of hypertension. This is where regular practice of a stress reduction technique, such as Transcendental Meditation, could be very helpful.

Recurrent and/or sustained exaggerated increases in blood pressure responses to stress are associated with naturally accompanying increases in heart and blood vessel wall tension. It is hypothesized that over time the Transcendental Meditation practice leads to secondary cardiovascular structural adaptation; that is, blood vessel and heart muscle wall remodeling to help normalize heart muscle and blood vessel wall tension.

These results concern the Transcendental Meditation technique specifically and may not apply to other techniques of meditation, as not all the techniques work in the same way. By way of introduction, the Transcendental Meditation technique has been described as a simple, natural procedure, practiced for 20 minutes twice a day while sitting comfortably with one's eyes closed. The Transcendental Meditation technique has its origin in the ancient Vedic approach to health. It is not a religion and does not require changes in personal belief, lifestyle, or philosophy.

Q: What are the possible mechanisms responsible for the reduction of blood pressure with Transcendental Meditation practice? 

Dr. Barnes:
Chronic environmental and psychosocial stress contribute to an
increase in acute stress-induced sympathetic nervous system arousal, resulting in imbalance in the nervous system biochemistry. Such changes result in an exaggerated response to stress, as evidenced by constriction of the blood vessels and increased blood pressure levels.

Moderating factors such as stress reduction via practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique impact on the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in reduced blood pressure reactivity to acute stress. Over time, due to decreased cardiovascular reactivity to acute events, there is reduced load upon the heart, resulting in decreased blood pressure levels, thereby helping to prevent early onset of hypertension.

Click here for more about Transcendental Meditation and blood pressure, including related research showing the effects of the technique in reducing:
∙ stress
∙ cholesterol
∙ free radicals
∙ blood pressure in different age groups and at-risk populations
∙ congestive heart failure
∙ atherosclerosis and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease

Related articles:

Physicians recommend Transcendental Meditation to reduce risk factors for heart attack and stroke
Research shows significant drop in blood pressure soon after learning Transcendental Meditation
Medical experts explain how Transcendental Meditation reduces blood pressure
Physiological changes distinguish Transcendental Meditation from other meditation practices
Transcendental Meditation promotes experience of a fourth major state of consciousness

* 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.

© Copyright 2011 American Association of Physicians Practicing the Transcendental Meditation Technique

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