We all know that hypertension is a major risk factor for heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. An 8-month study involving 111 teens on the verge of becoming hypertensive adults, found that meditation helps blood vessels relax (Barnes et al: 2004). Two 15-minute meditation sessions led to an average 21 per cent increase in the ability of the teens' blood vessels to dilate. In contrast, the teens who did not meditate experienced a 4 per cent decrease in blood vessel dilation over the 8-month study.
Lead investigator Dr Vernon A Barnes, stated: ‘We know that this type of change is achievable with lipid-lowering drugs, but it's remarkable that a meditation program can produce such a change. This could have important implications for inclusion of meditation programs to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases and its clinical consequences.’
Another important study shows that mindfulness meditation is associated with improved glycemic control in type 2 diabetes (Rosenzweig et al: 2007).
Mindfulness is not just an antidote for stress. Mindfulness actually changes things – you! The only 'thing' you can ever change. (You're powerless over everything else.) The regular practice of mindfulness meditation allows you to make the necessary ‘adjustments’ to changing circumstances and unprecedented events. You learn to refine and adjust your expectations (and invent new expectations) and to tailor your ‘responses’ [cf ‘reactions’] to emerging threats as well as general existential uncertainty.
The key elements? I have mentioned these two phrases so many times in my now more than 80 blogs since October 2010 – choiceless awareness and bare attention. Commit them to memory. Better still, commit them to daily practice.
This post sets out a simple form of mindfulness sitting meditation. Also, if you are living with heart disease you may wish to purchase this very good interactive mindfulness audio CD featuring Dr Bob Stahl.
Dimsdale JE: Psychological Stress and Cardiovascular Disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008;51;1237-1246 doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2007.12.024
Rosenzweig S, Reibel DK, Greeson JM, Edman JS, Jasser SA, McMearty KD, Goldstein BJ: Mindfulness-based stress reduction is associated with improved glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A pilot study. Altern Ther Health Med. 2007;13(5):36-38.