Mindfulness, an important aspect of meditation centered around conscious awareness and focus on the present, can be highly beneficial to overall well-being.
A growing body of research has linked this practice with benefits including better sleep and relief from mental distress.
A new study has found another positive effect of mindfulness, specificaly mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) – it may help lower blood pressure in people who have prehypertension.
Prehypertension, or borderline high blood pressure, is the state where blood pressure is higher than desired, but not so high that doctors would prescribe medication for it. This condition affects an estimated 30 percent of Americans and has been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular issues.
A research team, including Dr. Joel W. Hughes of Kent State University, recruited 56 men and women who had been diagnosed with prehypertension to participate in a study to test the effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques. They divided the participants into two groups, and assigned one group to eight MBSR sessions of 2 ½ hours per week.
During these sessions, the MBSR participants learned yoga techniques, sitting meditation and body scan exercises from an experienced instructor. They were also encouraged to continue these mindfulness practices at home.
The other group of participants did not learn MBSR techniques, and instead were taught a muscle relaxation technique, and received lifestyle advice. At the end of the study, different blood pressure measurements were taken in all of the participants, and the results between the two groups were compared.
Results showed that the systolic blood pressure (the highest number) readings of those in the MBSR group had decreased by 5 mm Hg, while those in the control group only experienced a 1 mm Hg decrease.
The MBSR group also had a 2 mm Hg lower diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) than before the study, while the control group experienced an increase of 1 mm Hg. 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure readings seemed to be unaffected.
Dr. Hughes writes, “our results provide evidence that MBSR, when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range.”
He and his co-authors add, “mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions.”
The researchers say that although further studies are needed to see if the effects last over time, and even though the blood pressure reduction was not drastic, mindfulness could still potentially help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in prehypertensive individuals.
Mindfulness is a powerful practice that can keep you centered in the present, and may significantly boost your health and quality of life. This study, and many others, provide numerous reasons to give it a try.
-The Alternative Daily