Meditate Daily to Reduce Blood Pressure

In the United States, hypertension (chronic high blood pressure that can lead to heart disease and stroke) is most prevalent among African Americans. In fact, 34 percent of the African American population has high blood pressure—a rate higher than any other racial or ethnic group. A year-long study, reported in the American Journal of Hypertension, examined how three different interventions affected blood pressure among 150 African Americans with high blood pressure.

The participants were divided into three groups and were taught one of three different stress reduction techniques. One group learned how to practice transcendental meditation, a nonreligious technique that creates a wakeful state of relaxation, helping to reduce stress. A second group received instruction in progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), a technique that involves systematically tensing and relaxing muscles in order to relax the body and mind. The last received health education about lifestyle modifications that are known to reduce hypertension—healthy cooking, reducing sodium intake, losing weight, exercising, and stress reduction. Each group was told to practice these techniques on their own at home, along with attending an equal number of follow-up meetings each month.

After one year, the following results were established:
  • People who practiced transcendental meditation each day saw the greatest results: a 6-point drop is diastolic blood pressure and a 3-point drop in systolic blood pressure. Study authors say that these results are similar to results that patients on medication exhibit. However, 23 percent of the meditators were able to reduce their use of blood pressure medication.
  • Results were similar for the other two groups: a 3-point drop is diastolic blood pressure and no change in systolic blood pressure.
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Although this study looked at the African American population, these findings could apply to people of any race or ethnic background. These results also show that even though certain interventions might have better results than others, many factors can affect (and reduce) blood pressure besides medication alone. Taking steps to reduce stress, along with adhering to other treatment recommendations from your doctor (medication, dietary changes, exercise, etc.), could help you improve not only your physical health, but your mental outlook. To learn more about transcendental meditation, visit the official website