Practicing a particular type of meditation twice a day can significantly reduce blood pressure, according to an analysis of existing research on the technique.
The blood pressure reductions associated with regular practice of transcendental meditation, or TM, would translate to a 12-15 percent reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular causes and a 15-20 percent lower risk of stroke, Dr. James W. Anderson, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.
In TM, a person sits in a comfortable chair for 20 minutes twice a day and attempts to quiet the mind by focusing on a mantra, Anderson explained. "It's fairly simple but you need training to get into it," he added. "It allows you to get below the kind of 'cocktail chatter' that's always going on in your brain."
There are a number of different types of meditation and relaxation techniques, Anderson pointed out, but he said TM has a unique ability to bring the practitioner into a "quiet zone" that acts as a kind of "sanctuary" for a person, refreshing them and reducing stress.
Some research on TM has been criticized as being biased and of poor quality, the researcher and his colleagues at the University of Kentucky in Lexington note in their report in the American Journal of Hypertension.
To better understand the real benefits of the practice for people with high blood pressure, they looked at nine trials that compared blood pressure changes in a group of patients practicing TM versus a "control" group. The researchers limited their analysis of the findings to the three clinical trials they rated as being high quality.
Based on these three studies, TM reduced systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) by 4.7 points, and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by 3.2 points.
"Sustained blood pressure reductions of this magnitude are likely to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease," Anderson and his team conclude.