A new large-scale US study supports previous findings that meditation is good for your heart
A survey of more than 61,000 Americans has found a connection between meditation and lower rates of cardiovascular disease.
The data was analyzed by researchers at US Veterans Affairs, and participants were found by the US National Center for Health Statistics. The survey included close to 6,000 who said they practiced meditation.
In 2017, the American Heart Association advised that frequent meditation may benefit those at risk for cardiovascular disease, noting that research data had suggested that the practise can help with blood pressure levels, cholesterol levels, and quitting smoking. The recent large-scale study found that those who practiced meditation saw lower rates of high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease. The effect was especially pronounced for coronary heart disease: the incidence of that condition among those who meditated was half (51%) that among those who didn’t.
The incidence of high cholesterol among meditators was 65% that among non-meditators; the meditation group was also less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes (their rate was 70% that of non-meditators), stroke (76%), and high blood presssure (86%). The associations were still significant when researchers controlled for other risk factors such as age, sex, smoking, and body mass index, but not as significant when researchers controlled for alcohol consumption and exercise.
“I believe in meditation, as it can give us a sense of calm, peace, and stress reduction, leading to improvement of our emotional well-being,” said Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong, the lead researcher of the study, which was recently published in the American Journal of Cardiology.
One limitation of the study was that participants weren’t asked what type of meditation they practiced or how often or for how long they meditated each time, Krittanawong said. As a result, it’s possible that some types of meditations may be more effective than others at reducing cardiovascular risk, though it remains unclear at the moment which types might be the most effective.
Krittanawong also acknowledged that it’s possible that there isn’t a direct relationship between meditating and cardiovascular disease, but rather that healthy people with low cardiovascular risk are more likely to meditate than are those with unhealthy lifestyles.