Cardiovascular disease and meditation.
While the research has not reached a definitive conclusion on the statistical benefit of various meditation techniques on cardiovascular health, this author, a long time meditation practitioner, is convinced of its overall beneficial effects. The ability to quantify it however may never be reached due to other factors such as genetics, nutritional habits and overall lifestyle. With the obvious factors such as increased serotonin, decrease in lactic acid in the blood, decrease in breath rate and heart rate etc. it would seem logical that these would be beneficial to the human body. While previous studies have shown meditators have longer telomeres, a significantly accurate predictor of longevity, the direct effect on cardiovascular disease has not yet been ascertained. Despite numerous advances in the prevention and treatment of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Novel and inexpensive interventions that can contribute to the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease are of interest. Numerous studies have reported on the benefits of meditation. Meditation instruction and practice is widely accessible and inexpensive and may thus be a potential attractive cost‐effective adjunct to more traditional medical therapies. Accordingly, this American Heart Association scientific statement systematically reviewed the data on the potential benefits of meditation on cardiovascular risk.
Neurophysiological and neuroanatomical studies demonstrate that meditation can have long‐standing effects on the brain, which provide some biological plausibility for beneficial consequences on the physiological basal state and on cardiovascular risk. Studies of the effects of meditation on cardiovascular risk have included those investigating physiological response to stress, smoking cessation, blood pressure reduction, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, endothelial function, inducible myocardial ischemia, and primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Overall, studies of meditation suggest a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk, although the overall quality and, in some cases, quantity of study data are modest. Given the low costs and low risks of this intervention, meditation may be considered as an adjunct to guideline‐directed cardiovascular risk reduction by those interested in this lifestyle modification, with the understanding that the benefits of such intervention remain to be better established. Further research on meditation and cardiovascular risk is warranted. Such studies, to the degree possible, should utilize randomized study design, be adequately powered to meet the primary study outcome, strive to achieve low dropout rates, include long‐term follow‐up, and be performed by those without inherent bias in outcome.
Dozens of studies have reported on the health benefits of meditation. According to the National Health Interview Survey, 8% of US adults practice some form of meditation. Up to 14% to 24% of patients with CVD have been reported to use or to have used some form of mind‐body therapy, and 2% to 3% use or have used some form of meditation. In addition, half of CVD patients are interested in participating in a clinical trial of alternative therapies, and 17% are interested in participating in a clinical trial of meditation. Many forms of meditation can be learned from publications, the internet, and audio media. Many meditation courses are available for a modest fee or voluntary contribution. Hence, meditation may be an attractive cost‐effective adjunct to more traditional medical therapies. Accordingly, the American Heart Association commissioned this scientific statement to systematically and scientifically review the data on the potential benefits of meditation related to CVD. Studies of meditation to date suggest a possible, though not definitively established, benefit of meditation on cardiovascular risk reduction. A 2008 review of >400 trials of meditation and health care rated the methodological quality of clinical trials as poor, but noted that the quality of these trials had significantly improved over time. Methodological issues in research to date include modest study size, limited and often incomplete follow‐up, high dropout rates, lack of randomization and/or appropriate control group, and unavoidable patient nonblinded study design. As with many other novel interventions, there is the possibility of publication bias toward positive studies of the beneficial effects of meditation. investigators who conducted studies of meditation may have a strong belief in the benefits of meditation and may be enthusiastic meditators themselves, thereby introducing the possibility of unintended bias. Many studies of meditation techniques are performed by the same groups of researchers, so there is a need for independent verification of reported positive findings. Whereas these studies are important in that they serve to suggest that meditation may reduce cardiovascular risk, these limitations prevent definitive conclusions regarding efficacy of meditation on cardiovascular risk reduction.
Currently, the mainstay for primary and secondary prevention of CVD is American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association guideline‐directed interventions. However, considering the generally low costs and risks associated with meditation, meditation may be considered as a reasonable adjunct to guideline‐directed cardiovascular risk reduction by those so interested in this lifestyle modification, with the understanding that the benefits of such intervention remain to be better established.
Further research on meditation and cardiovascular risk is warranted. Such studies, to the degree possible, should utilize randomized study design, be adequately powered to detect clinically meaningful benefit, include long‐term follow‐up, and be performed by those without inherent bias in outcome. One such example is the ongoing Yoga‐CaRe study for secondary prevention of myocardial infarction. This authors advice comes from Nike...Just do it! Then check the research in 5 or 10 years.