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Meditation Improves Outcomes for Black Americans With Heart Disease

20 minutes of meditation twice a day keeps the doctor away

--by Jenara Nerenberg Young black woman meditating

The Gist

Meditation has become increasingly popular in the United States for its stress-reducing effects, but could the practice help save your life?

Yes, says new research published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, which showed that African Americans with heart disease who practice regular transcendental meditation are 48 percent less likely to experience a heart attack or stroke as compared to those who are enrolled in health education classes without meditation practice. Less anger, less stress, and lower blood pressure were also reported in the meditation group. 

The Expert Take

"Transcendental meditation may reduce heart disease risks for both healthy people and those with diagnosed heart conditions," said Robert Schneider, M.D., lead researcher and director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa.

Meditation is proving to be a cost-effective approach for lowering stress and blood pressure, which correlate with heart disease.

"The research on transcendental meditation and cardiovascular disease is established well enough that physicians may safely and routinely prescribe stress reduction for their patients with this easy to implement, standardized, and practical program," Schneider said. 

The program required participants to sit quietly and meditate for 20 minutes twice each day.

The Takeaway

Meditation calms the mind and lowers stress, therefore reducing your chances of developing stress-induced conditions, such as hypertension—conditions that are also known to lead to heart disease. If you have or are at risk for heart disease, consider enrolling in a meditation class at a local community college or hospital.

According to the study, "death from heart disease is about 50 percent higher in black adults compared to whites in the United States. Researchers focused on African Americans because of health disparities in America."

Source and Method

201 people participated in a transcendental meditation class or a health education class on diet and exercise. The majority of participants were obese and very low-income, and also had other conditions such as high cholesterol. According to the research, "regular meditation was correlated with reduced death, heart attack, and stroke."

Other Research

A 2003 study showed that meditation programs helped reduce anxiety in women with heart disease—a finding particularly significant because anxiety is thought to contribute to heart disease, and heart disease is the number one cause of death among women in the United States. The Cochrane Collaboration also acknowledged this effect in a 2009 review, but concluded that research on meditation and heart disease tends to be biased.

And an earlier report reviewed prior studies and concluded that stress management programs that reduce other related factors—type A behavior, hypertension, and raised serum cholesterol—are also effective at reducing the deadly consequences of heart disease.

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Tags: Awareness , Latest Studies & Research , Treatments

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