Meditation is an antique practice – often using quiet contemplation, deep breathing or sustained focus on a phrase, color or sound – that helps an individual let goof stress and feel peaceful together with maintaining a relaxed state of mind.
People meditate for several reasons. For some it is a spiritual journey that has to do with expansion of awareness and perception of life. Some are interested in its benefits for health and general well-being. Others simply want to relax. Nowadays it is more often practiced to clear the mind and at the same time to ease many health concerns related to stress, including high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.
Thepositive effect of meditation comes from deep relaxation when both the body andmind are refreshed and revitalized. This yields many immediate, as well as long lasting health benefits, primarily for the heart. Some of them include:
- Lowering heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Reducing harmful hormones
- Lowering cholesterol
- Improving sleep.
It has longbeen known that psychological stress increases activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis. This makes the body release harmful hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, which leads to faster heart rate, increased cardiac output and narrowing of arteries.
When the stressor is gone, hormone levels typically subside and stability is restored. However, when the stress-reaction process is repeated over and over again,stress becomes chronic and the system breaks down. This is called allostatic load and can result in an increase in physiological issues that compromise the immune system, create elevated blood pressure and accelerate atherosclerotic processes, leading to acute plaque rupture and resulting in coronary heart disease, angina and stroke.
Here is what science says about how meditation can be beneficial for reducing cardiovascular disease:
Lowering blood pressure. A 2013 study showed that regular mindfulness-based stress reduction activities were able to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure over a period of 8 weeks.
Reducing stress and releasing feeling of tension. A 2015 study reported significant reduction of stress and anxiety after engaging in meditation for a few minutesa day over a period of time.
Improving sleep. Mindfulness meditation improves quality ofsleep and can be used for treating insomnia.
Boosting the immune system. Researches at University of Wisconsin reported ‘demonstrable effects on brain and immune function’ after an 8-week period of meditation.
Reducing inflammation. Since chronic inflammation isinvolved in all stages of atherosclerosis, reducing inflammation is essential in heart disease. A study by Wisconsin-Madison University has found that meditation, adjunct to dietary and exercise programs, helps reduce underlying inflammatory processes.
Thus, by consistently practicing meditation you can reduce activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn reduces stress hormones, provides stress relief and dilates blood vessels, providing benefit to the heart. This practice can be done anywhere at any time, but complimentary to diet, exercise and prescribed medications, where applicable.