Mediation is known for its several benefits and, according to a recent study, meditation may also help in cardiovascular risk reduction.
By using a large national database with many participants, the authors of the new study sought further evidence on how meditation impacts cardiovascular risk. The results appeared online in the 'American Journal of Cardiology'. Lead researcher Dr Chayakrit Krittanawong - of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai - and his colleagues studied data from the National Health Interview Survey, conducted annually by the National Center for Health Statistics. It collects information on a wide range of health topics from a nationally representative sample.
The researchers looked at data from around 61,000 survey participants. Of those, almost 6,000 (nearly 10 per cent) said they participated in some form of meditation.
The researchers found that people who meditated had lower rates of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease, compared with those who did not meditate.
The greatest difference was in coronary artery disease. Those who meditated were 51 per cent as likely as those who didn't to have the disease. The prevalence of other cardiovascular risks in the meditation group compared with the non-meditation group was 65 per cent for high cholesterol, 70 per cent for diabetes, 76 per cent for stroke, and 86 per cent for high blood pressure.
The researchers controlled for other factors connected to cardiovascular risks, such as age, sex, cigarette smoking, and body mass index. After adjusting for these factors, the effect of meditation was still significant.
Many types of meditation exist. Most focus on attention and awareness. Meditation has been shown to increase physical and mental relaxation. "I believe in meditation, as it can give us a sense of calm, peace, and stress reduction, leading to improvement of our emotional well-being," explained Krittanawong.
Practising meditation has been linked to decreased stress, greater mindfulness, and improved psychological health. It may even lead to long-term functional and anatomical changes in the brain. Meditation is also simple, cost-effective, and low-risk.
Krittanawong and colleagues did note several limitations to the study. First, the survey did not capture what type of meditation people were using. Some types of meditation may offer more cardiovascular benefit than others, say the researchers. The survey also did not ask about the duration or intensity of that meditation. It is possible that those who practice longer and more frequently will get more benefit, but the study cannot measure these effects.