By Millie Pope | Image by Mila Supinskaya/Shutterstock.com |
Health disease is the main health problem in the USA, being the leading cause of death. Heart disease affects equally women and men, though there is the misconception that cardiovascular disease affects more men than women. Furthermore, chest pain derived from coronary heart disease is the cause of over 8 million visits to emergency departments in the United States.
Evidence has demonstrated that stress and anxiety, among other negative emotions, are linked to heart disease. Anxiety may be a risk factor in the appearance of coronary heart disease. Therefore, the need for methods to prevent or improve heart disease is mandatory. And at this point, meditation and mindfulness seem to be efficacious tools to lower stress and anxiety, thus improving cardiovascular conditions.
What Are Meditation and Mindfulness?
By meditation, we understand a state of concentration, contemplation and reflection. This practice originated thousands of years ago, to improve spiritual and emotional well-being. It teaches to examine the practitioner to examine the thoughts, feelings, and sensations in a nonjudgmental way, aiming to achieve a state of inner peace, physical relaxation, and psychological balance. There are varied types of meditation such as Yoga (which includes incorporating postures and breathing techniques), Tai Chi, Qi-Gong, and many more meditation methods. In most cases, meditation involves repeating a Mantra, which are words with phonetic significance. Mindfulness is another form of meditation that stimulates the non-judging observation of thoughts, perceptions and emotions, providing a way to self-monitoring and regulation arousal with awareness, focusing on paying attention to the present.
Do Meditation and Mindfulness Help to Reduce Heart Disease?
The interest in meditation has grown since 1960. Not only the number of practitioners has been augmenting, but also the interest of health care experts and health care providers; all of them seeking an alternative or complementary means to promote health. For instance, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR), which was originated back in 1979 at the School of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, incorporates the basics of mindfulness meditation to reduce anxiety and consequently help to reduce heart disease.
A pilot study on the MBSR program’s results showed a significant difference in the scores of anxiety, emotional self-control, and reactive coping in women with heart disease who followed the program. It confirmed that the MBSR program promises to be an effective complementary therapy for patients with heart disease.
Moreover, several studies have demonstrated that besides reducing CV mortality, meditation improves other health conditions such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, and high levels of cortisol.
Of course, further studies on the health benefits of meditation on health are needed, but so far, evidence and studies suggest that meditation on its different types is beneficial to reduce stress and anxiety, lowering the incidence of heart disease. Beyond what scientific studies have demonstrated, or will demonstrate, it seems to be a good advice to start practicing some form of meditation for overall emotional, psychological and physical health.
- Tacón AM, McComb J, Caldera Y, Randolph P. Mindfulness meditation, anxiety reduction, and heart disease: a pilot study. Fam Community Health. 2003
- Ray IB, Menezes AR, Malur P, Hiltbold AE, Reilly JP, Lavie CJ. Meditation and coronary heart disease: a review of the current clinical evidence. Ochsner J. 2014