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Meditation: Part of a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle?

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The American Heart Association has released a scientific statement noting that meditation has potential to reduce some heart disease risk factors and may be considered an adjunct to a heart-healthy lifestyle of good nutrition, physical activity and smoking cessation, combined with medical treatment for conditions like high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

“Since education on how to meditate is widely available and meditation has little if any risk associated with it, interested people may want to use these techniques, in addition to established medical and lifestyle interventions, as a possible way to lower heart disease risk,” said Glenn N. Levine, MD, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and chair of the AHA statement’s writing group.

Since numerous studies have reported on meditation’s health benefits, the AHA formed a group to conduct a systematic review to determine whether sitting meditation practice may be beneficial for cardiovascular risk reduction. The review excluded mindful movement activities. Study authors noted the following possible benefits of meditation:

  • less stress, anxiety and depression
  • better sleep quality and overall well-being
  • lower blood pressure
  • help with smoking cessation
  • decreased heart attack risk—but only a few studies exist, and more are required for definitive conclusions

Study authors concluded that more research on meditation and cardiovascular risk is warranted. Levine said, “It’s important that people understand that the benefits remain to be better established and meditation is not a substitute for traditional medical care.”

The AHA scientific statement is available in the open-access Journal of the American Heart Association (2017; doi: 10.1161/JAHA.117.002218) at jaha.ahajournals.org/content/6/10/e002218.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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