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Want a healthy heart? Meditate

Transcendental meditation has been found to help with a cluster of other symptoms which can lead to heart attacks, says a study.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 19:21 IST

Already known to help reduce blood pressure, transcendental meditation has now been found to help with a cluster of other symptoms which can lead to heart attacks, a study published Monday found.

A 16-week trial of patients with heart disease found that those who practiced meditation had significantly better improvements in blood pressure, glucose and insulin levels and a more stable functioning of the autonomic nervous system than those who were entered in a standard health education programme.

"These physiological effects were accomplished without changes in body weight, medication, or psychosocial variables and despite a marginally statistically significant increase in physical activity in the health education (control) group," lead author Maura Paul-Labrador of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles wrote.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine.

Transcendental meditation is derived from the ancient Vedic tradition in India and is taught through a standard protocol involving lectures, personal instruction and group meetings. Patients in the trial attended lectures, group meetings and individual classes and were also instructed to practice the relaxation technique at home.

The study showed that meditation could be a good form of prevention and treatment for heart disease but also helped explain the role of stress in the rising epidemic of a cluster of symptoms that increase cardiac risk, the authors concluded.

That cluster is referred to as metabolic syndrome and includes high blood pressure (hypertension), abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance, which occurs when the body is unable to use the insulin produced by the pancreas to process sugar into energy.

"Although current low levels of physical activity, unhealthy eating habits and resultant obesity are triggers for this epidemic, the demands of modern society may also be responsible for higher levels of chronic stress," the authors wrote.

Such stress causes the release of cortisol and other hormones and neurotransmitters, which over time damage the cardiovascular system.

"Our results, demonstrating beneficial physiological effects of transcendental meditation in the absence of effects on psychosocial variables, suggest that transcendental meditation may modulate response to stress rather than alter the stress itself, similar to the physiological impact of exercise conditioning," the authors wrote.