Strongest Study Yet Shows Meditation Can Lower Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke

Most doctors say meditation can't hurt you, but now there's reassuring evidence that it may help you as well when it comes to warding off disease.

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Most doctors say meditation can’t hurt you, but now there’s reassuring evidence that it may help you as well when it comes to warding off disease.

Previous studies have linked better health outcomes among heart patients who practiced meditation compared to those who did not, but none of those trials could definitively credit the brain-focusing program with the better health results. In the latest trial to address those limitations, however, meditation does appear to have an effect on reducing heart attack, stroke and even early death from heart disease, at least among African-Americans.

MORE: Losing Focus? Studies Say Meditation May Help

“The main finding [of our research] is that, added on top of usual medical care, intervention with a mind-body technique — transcendental meditation — can have a major effect on cardiovascular events,” says Robert Schneider, lead author on the study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes and a professor at the Maharishi University of Management, an institution in Iowa that was founded by the creator of transcendental meditation.

He and his colleagues followed 201 African American men and women, who are at higher risk of heart disease than whites, but who also had addition reason to worry about heart attacks and strokes since they were also diagnosed with coronary heart disease. The participants were randomly assigned to participate in either a health education class about heart-friendly diet and exercise, or to attend a transcendental meditation program. Transcendental meditation involves shutting out the outside world and focusing thoughts inward, or resting while remaining alert. All of the participants continued to receive their normal medical care as well, including appropriate medication.

MORE: Medical Meditation: Say Om Before Surgery

After roughly five years of follow-up, the researchers found a 48% reduction in the overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from any cause among members of the meditation group compared to those from the health education group. The meditating group enjoyed an average drop of 4.9 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure compared to the control group and also reported less stress and less anger. “It’s like discovering a whole new class of medications,” Schneider says of the power of meditation in improving the patients’ health.

But while the magnitude of those results is remarkable, the study involved a relatively small number of participants, and did not reveal how meditation may be lowering heart disease risk. On the surface, it’s intuitively obvious that stress management can affect heart health for the better; anxiety and stress cause blood pressure to shoot up and leave us on edge, triggering spikes in heart-harming stress hormones like cortisol.

But many experts are skeptical of the alleged benefits of techniques such as transcendental meditation that claim to reduce stress by a substantial amount. In the past, these benefits have been hard to test scientifically, largely because study participants who volunteered for meditation programs may have been biased to see them succeed. Practitioners have also made strong and essentially unsubstantiated claims about the powers of meditation, leading heart experts and scientists to be especially skeptical. In fact, in 2005, more than 500 brain researchers signed a petition (albeit an unsuccessful one) to protest a scheduled lecture on the neuroscience of meditation by the Buddhist spiritual icon, the Dalai Lama, at a major conference organized by the Society for Neuroscience.

MORE: Mind Over Matter: Can Zen Meditation Help You Forget About Pain?

The great lengths to which the researchers of the Circulation study went to make their trial scientifically rigorous, however, should reinforce the results in the eyes of some skeptics. The scientists adjusted for the effects of weight, smoking behavior, and diet, all of which can influence heart attack, stroke and early heart death rates. And while the participants in both groups exercised more and cut back on alcohol during the study, they did so at similar rates, making these changes unlikely to be responsible for the differences in health outcomes either.

While the findings aren’t likely to resolve questions over whether meditation should become a standard part of heart disease care, the results should give more doctors confidence in discussing the practice with their patients and giving them some scientifically based information that’s an improvement over the advice that “it can’t hurt to try.”

VIDEO: Practicing Meditation for Female Pleasure

58 comments
Time108
Time108

Current pricing $960 for adults and $360 for students. There are also scholarships available for students.

And that’s for lifetime of free followup. It’s always been a bargain.

All the fees go towards teaching those in need, at risk inner city youth, students, prisoners, homeless, returning soldiers with PTSD, Native Americans, etc. 

In the 1970s, Ralph Nader stated that there were only 3 truly non-profit organizations in the US, The Red Cross, the Boy and Girl Scouts, and The TM organization.

RexBruce
RexBruce

For-profit spirituality is a self-canceling proposition. What can be gained by meditation is a human birthright and can be practiced by anyone and is a pan-cultural phenomenon across history. TM, while clearly valid for this study, does not stand for "trademark", I'm afraid. There have been many other studies with other types of meditation and different approaches to collecting scientific data more directly seeing what happens biologically when meditation practitioners go at it. The "endpoints" approach is encouraging and while it seems like it is stating the obvious to anyone doing it for decades, it is very significant in encouraging acknowledgment for medical science and can indeed save lives and improve quality of life across the board.

lloyd.allhorizonfinancial
lloyd.allhorizonfinancial

This is great Medical News ,Mind body technique actually speed up the healing process,This should be a part of the recovery process may actually help to reduce the cost of Health care.If the cost of medical care is reduce then we may also see cost reduction in Individual health Insurance going forward.

Bienfaits
Bienfaits

This only works because of one single principle: we have forgotten the means to withdraw the benefits available to our body and ourselves, from deep within us. It is there, it is our birthright. In fact, this transcendental meditation does only one thing: to restore what is missing, that's all, but only MT do that so well and so easily: http://www.bienfaits-meditation.com/en/the_transcendental_meditation/uniqueness_of_the_transcendental_meditation_technique

French:Cela fonctionne en raison d’un seul principe : nous avons oublié le moyen d'aller profondément en nous pour en retirer les bienfaits naturellement disponibles pour notre corps et pour nous. C’est notre droit de naissance. En fait cette méditation transcendantale ne fait qu'une seule chose: restaurer ce qui manque, c’est tout, mais il n’y que la MT qui le fasse aussi bien et si facilement : http://www.bienfaits-meditation.com/fr/la_meditation_transcendantale/unicite_de_la_meditation_transcendantale

jrcsamad
jrcsamad

There is a great deal of good evidence that Transcendental Meditation causes a very different type of brain wave activity than other meditations.  Look for the work of Dr. Fred Travis at Maharishi University of Management.  Yes...he is a long term TM meditator, but his research has been well received by many of his peers throughout the world.  He has his own website discussing the results of his research.

jrcsamad
jrcsamad

@jharrisonplease @jrcsamad  

As a 40 year practitioner of TM and the advanced  TM-Sidhi program; and someone who has taught TM to students, inmates, and vets...i am very satisfied that TM offers someone a very profound means to develop their infinite potential; to find fulfillment in the inner experience of absolute consciousness within.  This has been my experience.  Also The brain wave studies that Fred Travis has done, without a doubt shows that TM has a unique effect on the brain.   While Mindfulness Meditation has had success in bringing some good effect, it is clear that it is limited in this regard.  The ancient Vedic tradition that TM  comes from is thousands of years old, and offers an absolutely profound, complete body of knowledge and technologies of consciousness for complete..and that means "complete" development of our infinite nature.  These techniques that borrow from here and there will always fall short of this.

 

jrcsamad
jrcsamad

@jharrisonplease @jrcsamad  

Those who actually look at the research, do take it seriously...as it is well done and respected by Fred's peers outside the TM community.  Why don't you just look at it on it's merits and ignore the superficial concerns.

Time108
Time108

@jharrisonplease @jrcsamad  Mindfulnes­s and meditation are totally different animals.


If you want the benefits of meditation, verified by hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies, you'll want to learn Transcendental Meditation. Instead of watching your thoughts or breath or perceptions, you transcend thinking altogether and experience the source of thought, Being itself. 


With TM, you're actually going beyond thought. Your mind settles inward to finer and finer states until you experience pure consciousness, the true nature of the Self. You enliven this field, a limitless reservoir of creativity and intelligence.

Daily practice of TM awakens one's total brain potential and improves health dramatically. 

Mindfulness may help you focus on the surface level of the pond, but TM gets you to the bottom and beyond, to the source of all ponds. 

LawsonENglish
LawsonENglish

@jharrisonplease @jrcsamad  There's 25-50x as much research on midnfulness published as on TM, and yet, the American Heart Association says that only TM has sufficiently good research to recommend it for the clinical use in the treatment of hypertension.


25-50x as much research, and mindfulness still doesn't get a passing grade from the AHA.



How impressive did you say it was, again?

agintm
agintm

I have no problem believing that sitting quietly twice a day can have beneficial effects on the human physiology, whether you are repeating a mantra or not. What I have a problem with is the TM Movement claiming that TM is head and shoulders above every other meditation technique on earth. The TM people say this because Maharishi claimed this when he first started teaching TM in the 1950's.

What I also have a problem with are people who work for the TM Movement who post on such forums as this, using very similar language, yet not disclosing they have a vested interest in promoting TM.

There are 2 other things I dislike - One, that David Lynch is spearheading a push to make TM palatable to the general public, that the news articles and appearances of celebrities on TV stumping for TM seems to be popping up spontaneously, but it is a very carefully orchestrated PR campaign that isn't announcing itself as such.

And two, I do not like the TM info being presented in a vacuum - if these studies and PR efforts also included information on the problems that many TM'ers encounter on long meditation retreats, (the famous "unstressing" phenomenon) and the fact that the TM leaders wear crowns, call themselves kings, believe in all sorts of rather strange things such as not entering a home or any kind of building through a south facing entrance, the fact that the leaders of the TM Movement constantly ask for large amounts of money that is never spent on the projects it is asked for, the fact that the Indian TM Movement is in a shambles with Maharishi's nephews engaged in legal battles with other Maharishi followers that includes allegations of theft, forgery, illegal land sales - hardly behavior one would expect from people who have been doing TM for years and years - if all these facts were offered for a full look at the TM organization then I would have nothing to say.

And yes these things do have something to do with the effects of TM - if people who have done TM for years behave in a unsavory way, the general public needs to know it if they are being enticed to do TM.

tlccabin
tlccabin

TM has been a significant boon managing my stress levels and as a result my health, creativity,  relationships and overall life in general has benefited. Research findings are great but my experience says it's the right choice for me!

easyrider202
easyrider202

I too started TM in the early 70’s, but I have nothing but good to say about it. I was a 2nd-year college student and it was a significant investment at the time, but have always felt that it was money very, very well spent: more energy, more clarity, better ideas in my essays, and thro the years it has been a great support. At a health and fitness evaluation a year ago, they told me that I was 12 years younger biologically than the norm for my age. Now I don’t think its entirely due to the stress-reducing effect of TM—but I am convinced that TM has helped me develop a taste for healthier choices in life, which strongly influenced this result. And the research on TM is not flawed—there have been 340 peer-reviewed studies to date, according to Norman Rosenthal, MD, author of Transcendence.And not a single one of them reported anything but benefits from the practice. The study of mortality reported here went thro an independent review and was published in a journal of the American Medical Assoc. Those who deny the helpfulness of TM for health are no more rational than the birthers.

 

agintm
agintm

Look, I have had enough experience with the TM movement to know that as soon as the TM people see any kind of "negative" remarks about TM they have their people rush to the web site and post all sorts of loving songs about the glory of TM. I wish that Laura Blue would have done due diligence on this article as in looking at this blog.    http://cardiobrief.org/2012/11/13/mysterious-disappearing-paper-finally-reappears-in-another-journal/

Of course if Laura Blue is a TM meditator it would be nice to know that fact. TM is ok, but it is not the panacea the TM people claim it is. If anyone has been doing TM long term, then they know there are many many people who have developed mental emotional problems as a result of too much TM - ever heard the word unstressing? The TM people never mention these folks, nor the long term TM practitioners who commit suicide, get in poor health and have various other problems. If you wanna do TM, do it, but don't try to make out as if it is God's gift to humanity - there are too many of us old time TM'ers who can refute that song and dance.

DeepakChi
DeepakChi

It is very important to have the right meditation technique to achieve the result. The study mentioned was about transcendental meditation. Other techniques do not have the same result as TM does - in fact, most of them do not work at all.

LawsonENglish
LawsonENglish

@Chrissy As a neuroscientist, you understand the need for peer-reviewed research, and replication of findings. Do you check the pubmed database on a regular basis to see if new research has been published that might change your current evaluation of the situation with respect to TM?

When was the last time you did a pubmed search on "transcendental meditation"?


LawsonENglish
LawsonENglish

@jharrisonplease @DeepakChi  what's the Dalai Lama's take on burning yourself alive in protest of war violence?


No Comment.


What's Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's take?


Foolish waste of life.

agintm
agintm

I learned TM in the 1970's and spent some years both meditating and working for the TM Movement - the research is flawed, the claims made for TM and its "advanced" programs are designed to funnel a great deal of money to the leaders of the TM organization. It is no accident that there is so much "buzz" about TM in the news these days - the TM movement is on the wane and the TM people are attempting to revitalize a dying money making deal. All this PR is being orchestrated to create a new generation of gullible money donors by TM leaders and their poster boy David Lynch - TM is no better or worse than any other meditation - take the advice of a long time meditator - save your money and your mind - learn any meditation other than TM.

meHimanshu
meHimanshu

One of the most powerful and effective meditations and breathing technique available out there: http://www.artofliving.org/in-en. I'd suggest anyone who is even remotely considering learning meditation to give it a try.

MatterOrganic
MatterOrganic

I've been doing TM because it's so easy and it brings results right away, clearer thinking, more energy, etc.   It's also good to know about the reduction in stroke and heart attacks.

Time108
Time108

@Chrissy  Hundreds of studies published in peer-reviewed journals disagree with you.

After more than 50 years, the facts are clear—all meditation is not the same. The reason the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have been funding TM for decades is that it has proven to be far more effective than anything else.

Since the 1970's, when research on Transcendental Meditation began to appear, many other meditation and stress-management techniques have been invented. TM wasn't invented, it was revived from the world's most ancient tradition of knowledge, the Veda of India and scientific analysis has separated the wheat from the chaff.

1. In the first major meta-analysis, nearly two decades of stress-related studies were compared statistically, with the results printed in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (Eppley et al 1989). These studies tested the effectiveness of every well-known meditation and relaxation technique, including Transcendental Meditation, other types of meditation, the much-researched progressive muscle relaxation technique, Benson's relaxation response, and many others. In the results of all the tests together, the Transcendental Meditation technique reduced anxiety more than twice as much as any other technique (p<0.005). When Dr. Eppley restricted his analysis to only the best studies, Transcendental Meditation reduced anxiety more than four times as well as all the other techniques.

2. A meta-analysis of various other techniques, such as Benson's 'relaxation-response' technique, bio-feedback, non-TM meditations, and progressive muscle relaxation, the effects on hypertension were found to be no greater than that of placebo techniques (Eisenberg et al 1993).

3. A meta-analysis summary of 597 studies in relaxation research published in the May/June 1998 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion found the Transcendental Meditation program far more effective than Progressive Relaxation, Mindfulness Meditation, the Benson Technique, Biofeedback, Zen Meditation, Self-Hypnosis and all other forms of meditation and relaxation programs. Areas covered included anxiety reduction, blood pressure reduction, physiological relaxation, self- actualization, improved psychological outcomes, and decreased use of cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.

4. The most recent published meta-analysis, published in the December 2007 issue of Current Hypertension Reports, suggests that the Transcendental Meditation technique is more effective at producing reductions in high blood pressure than other forms of relaxation, meditation, biofeedback, or stress management. It reviewed 107 published studies in peer-reviewed journals. 


It is better to spend a little more money $960 is current price for an adult, $360 for students) and learn a proven, time tested, scientifically validated program from a trained professional, than it is to save a few dollars and learn something unnatural, ineffective, and of questionable safety.

Time108
Time108

@jharrisonplease @MatterOrganic @Chrissy  

Mindfulnes­s and meditation are totally different animals.

If you want the benefits of meditation, verified by hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies, you'll want to learn Transcendental Meditation. Instead of watching your thoughts or breath or perceptions, you transcend thinking altogether and experience the source of thought, Being itself. 

With TM, you're actually going beyond thought. Your mind settles inward to finer and finer states until you experience pure consciousness, the true nature of the Self. You enliven this field, a limitless reservoir of creativity and intelligence.

Daily practice of TM awakens one's total brain potential, bringing coherence to all parts of the brain simultaneously.  

Mindfulness may help you focus on the surface level of the pond, but TM gets you to the bottom and beyond, to the source of all ponds. 

tammy
tammy

This is a compelling and important study. It has gone through far more scrutiny and peer-review analysis than studies usually do, and no design flaws were identified. There is also a strong precedence of solid research on TM in many other areas, especially cardiovascular, that supports the theoretical basis for TM’s positive effects on cardio health and mortality.There’s a fine line between healthy skepticism (which can play a natural role in the scientific process) and cynical bias, which can cloud one’s judgement and obstruct a fair appraisal of a research study. It seems the important questions here are, did the TM protocol really produce the results that the study’s findings suggest? Does the research design control for variables sufficiently, and does the data support the findings? 

No definitive explanation was ever provided for the pulling of the first study. This article's insinuation is clearly that the first study was somehow tainted, but the article provides no evidence or reasoning for that. I think a more likely cause for Archives withdrawing the study “without explanation” was that they just got cold feet about publishing a study on meditation that showed an alternative protocol radically outperforming conventional medicine. For all I know, the same kind of bias at work in your article was behind the pulling of the first paper.

TerryA
TerryA

This is great to know. TM has helped me stay young and healthy over the years. TM meditation feels good and heals mind and body at the same time. 

PictureShow
PictureShow

TM has helped my 84 year old Mom lower her blood pressure and its helped me maintain normal BP and cholesterol despite my advancing age. Oh, and by the way TM is a dynamic meditation process that is totally easy method of settling down naturally without any concentration or effort. It does not, as the article says, involve"shutting out the outside world or focusing on thoughts". Just thought you'd wanna know........ Peace!

t.

BillFehr
BillFehr

I question any  study funded by an organization who may benefit from the results. a.k.a TM