Meditation is an ancient practice with a long history of providing mental and physical benefits. Meditation has been widely embraced in the past few years as an effective way to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Did you know it can also reduce your risk of heart disease?
Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of morbidity and mortality globally despite many advances in prevention and treatment. Here’s a welcome update. Research shows that there is a positive link between meditation and heart health. Meditation is an inexpensive and widely accessible tool for reducing cardiovascular risk. According to a scientific statement (Ref. Link), AHA (American Heart Association) asserts that meditation can potentially reduce cardiovascular risk.
Meditation is an age-old practice but gained popularity in recent years. The earliest records of meditation date back to 1500 BCE and mention Vedantism, an Indian Hindu tradition. Meditation is a mindfulness practice that helps practitioners achieve mental focus, a sense of calm, and a mind-body connection. Meditation is typically practiced in a seated, comfortable position with eyes closed. There are many ways to practice meditation, a few of which are to focus on inhaling and exhaling every breath, a mental image, and repetition of a word or phrase (mantra). This attempts to quiet the mind and thoughts and relax the body.
Meditation has been shown to have several benefits for cardiovascular health, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Some specific ways in which meditation may help to reduce cardiovascular risk include:
In a five-year study (ref. link), 201 patients with coronary heart disease were advised to practice transcendental meditation (a meditation technique where you chant a mantra in your head) for five days. According to the researchers, this reduced the risk of death, heart attack, and stroke by 48%. Regular practice of meditation improves HRV (ref. link) and increases vagal tone. HRV is a measurement of the heart’s ability to adapt between beats. A higher HRV is associated with a healthier heart.
In contrast, a low heart rate variability is associated with an increased heart attack and stroke risk. Meditation activates our bodies’ parasympathetic nervous system (“rest-and-digest” functions), which counteracts our sympathetic nervous system (“flight-or-fight” responses). Meditation reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke by activating the parasympathetic system, increasing HRV and vagal tone, and reducing blood pressure.
A Lancet study (ref. link) revealed a correlation between stress and heart attacks. Chronic stress leads to high blood pressure (ref. link), a significant risk factor for heart disease. Stress may also contribute to other cardiovascular risks factors like smoking, overeating, and lack of physical activity. Meditation helps lower cortisol levels(stress hormones) and reduces blood pressure. It restores the body to a state of calm, allowing the body to repair itself and preventing further physical damage caused by stress.
Anxiety puts more strain on your heart, and the physical symptoms of anxiety are worse in individuals with existing cardiac disease. Anxiety causes Cardiac arrhythmias like Tachycardia (rapid heart rate) or Bradycardia(slow heart rate). Focusing on breathing and bringing attention to the present moment in meditation reduces anxiety. According to a recent Yale study (ref. link), meditation significantly reduces anxiety and depression.
Although meditation is an excellent tool for many, there are a few things to consider before starting meditation:
Regular meditation practice has been shown to reduce cardiovascular risk significantly. Meditation can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels and improve overall heart health. Meditation has also been found to reduce stress and anxiety, which significantly contribute to cardiovascular disease. Implementing a regular meditation practice may be an effective way to prevent or reduce symptoms for those at risk of developing cardiovascular disease or who already suffer from it. Add a Smart Heart Monitor like the Frontier X2, and you can look forward to improved heart tracking.
Meditation reduces stress and anxiety and decreases the risk of heart attack and stroke by lowering HRV and blood pressure, promoting a healthy heart.
Mindfulness meditation (which involves paying attention to one’s thoughts) and transcendental meditation (mantra chanting) are the most effective forms of meditation for reducing cardiovascular risk.
Meditation requires neither expensive equipment nor formal instruction. You can begin by sitting comfortably at home and focusing on your breathing, a mental image, or the repetition of a mantra ( a word or a phrase).
Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:
Yoga for Heart Health | Stretching Exercises for Heart | AFib Risk Factors | Low Carb Diet | Heart Palpitations After Eating | Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation | Persistent Atrial Fibrillation | Arrhythmia Causes | Long Covid symptoms