Study finds that mindfulness meditation is not enough to lower blood pressure.
The health benefits of stress reduction exercises like meditation are much touted, but a new study says lowering high blood pressure may not be one of them.
The study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, has found that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation had no effect on people with slightly high blood pressure who were not taking anti-hypertensive medication.
The ‘HARMONY’ study involved 101 participants (38 percent male) who were aged 20 to 75, had above normal blood pressure, but not yet hypertension. Half were assigned to start mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy right away and the rest were wait-listed to take the class at a later date.
Those who started immediately went to eight weekly group sessions, attended a day-long silent retreat, and practiced stress reduction for 45 minutes daily. They were also counseled with standard hypertension advice such as to eat less salt, quit smoking and exercise more.
At the end of the study, there were no significant differences in the blood pressure of those who had gone through the mindfulness program and those on the wait list. A second analysis of the group after MBSR therapy found a small reduction in blood pressure in female subjects only.
Study authors concluded that MBSR did not lower ambulatory blood pressure by a statistically or clinically significant amount in untreated, stage 1 hypertensive patients when compared with a wait-list control group. However, “it leaves untested whether MBSR might be useful for lowering blood pressure by improving adherence in treated hypertensive participants.”
Senior study author, Dr. Sheldon Tobe of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, elaborated that the findings don’t “mean that meditation is bad. It just simply doesn’t lower blood pressure.” Tobe was expecting to see an effect given past studies showing the benefits of such meditation, however when he again checked their results, participants had been taking anti-hypertensive medication.
The study doesn’t apply to other techniques such as Tai Chi and Transcendental Meditation. A report published by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that Zen Buddhist meditation and Qi Gong for example, significantly reduced blood pressure.
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