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How Meditation can Decrease the Risk of Heart Disease

Audrey Meinertzhagen

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As a Volunteer Caregiver to the Zen Hospice Project and a Course Manager at the CareGivers Project, Audrey is passionate about improving the standards of care for older adults and educating caregivers on the principles of mindfulness and self-care.


Research points to meditation as a new method of reducing risk of heart disease

You are concerned about your health. You read up on the latest findings. You take care of yourself. You spend countless hours trying to figure out which diet is right for you. You watch what you eat. You limit sugar and alcohol. You minimize carbohydrates, don’t eat as much meat as you used to and question whether or not you should say goodbye to anything with gluten.  You exercise. You walk. You have a gym membership. In short, you do things, take actions, and think about how to get and stay healthy.

Now, add to your regimen meditation. Before you scoff at yet another to-do, consider the following: meditation has been a constant for civilizations for thousands of years. It is not a fad that will fade into the darkness of crazes past. It is reaching people in the West at an unprecedented rate in wide ranging and practical terms. It is a practice that has informed many of the greatest minds and continues to today. Meditation balances the body, mind, and spirit and now the medical community is beginning to catch on, saying that meditation may decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke.

The Health Benefits of Meditation

There is now evidence leading scientist to the conclusion that meditation may actually decrease the risk of heart disease. According to the latest research, people who practice meditation are significantly less likely to have a heart attack or stroke or die within five years. “Meditation can be a useful part of cardiovascular risk reduction,” says cardiologist Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a professor at Harvard Medical School.

“The research is suggestive but not definitive,” said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, chairman of the group of cardiovascular disease experts who reviewed recent science to determine whether meditation could help reduce heart disease risks. “Overall, studies of meditation suggest a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk, although the overall quality and in some cases quantity of study data is modest,” said the scientific  team’s statement led by Dr. Levine in the  Sept. 28, 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association.  He goes on to conclude that “Meditation should be considered as a potential lifestyle modification, but should not be used to replace standard and proven treatments such as smoking cessation, blood pressure control and treatment of high cholesterol levels.”

Finding the Right Meditation Practice for You

Learn what type of meditation practice is right for you and develop a daily practice. The benefits of mindfulness are many; physiologically you are changing your brain activity, slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and breath rate. Adrenaline levels and cortisol levels lower resulting in reduced feelings of stress and anxiety. Overtime, meditation makes your body happier.

Here is a list of the most popular meditation styles for your consideration. Please note that the descriptions offered here are minimal and intended to just give you a notion about what they have to offer.

Focused Meditation

To do this form you work with any of the five senses. This is a great modality to use to relax your body. Working up from your feet, tensing and relaxing each body part, doing a body scan will instantly reduce your stress level and even help you get to sleep.

This type of meditation can also incorporate the use of mala beads that you move as you say a word or a prayer. Stay with the beads and create a rhythm with your repeated thought.

Transcendental Meditation or TM

This practice teaches you to use a specific phrase or mantra and/or sound to help you clear your mind and manage your thoughts.

Mindfulness Meditation

Present moment awareness is often used when describing this modality. The training of this practice usually begins with your breath. Following your breath, inhale gently and naturally then exhale with all of your attention on your breath. When you notice your mind wandering the secret is to gently remind yourself to come back to your breath. Over time this gets easier. Mindfulness meditation is the basis for the development of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training. This six-week course which is a great way to get started.

There are other modalities with a more spiritual or devotional grounding that are widely available for you to explore. With practice you begin to gain control over managing your thoughts as opposed to having them manage you. Developing and maintaining a sitting practice of at least ten minutes a day will reap physiological, emotional, and even spiritual benefits over time. The stresses and problems in your life will not vanish, but any inability to be present in what is going on around you will.

There is no magic pill when it comes to health. You and I know this, but nonetheless, we endlessly look for one or at very least secretly hope for one. A magic pill that will fix personal health problems, issues we have with others, bring peace to our communities. Maybe though, by developing a meditation practice we are getting a tad bit closer. Give it a try. What have you got to gain?


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