Transcendental Meditation: A Prescription for Lower Blood Pressure?

By

Hilary B. Weiss

 

 

 

 

Introduction: What is Transcendental Meditation?                             

 

About forty years ago, Maharishi Mahesk Yogi pioneered the Transcendental Meditation program.  The Transcendental Meditation technique is a natural, unforced practice that reduces stress and increases an individual’s mental and physical potential.  TM (Transcendental Meditation) is often experienced for fifteen to twenty minutes twice a day.  Typically, one meditates in the morning before eating breakfast; this practice helps the person start his day both alert and energized.  The second meditation session occurs in the afternoon before dinner.  During this practice, one washes away the stress accumulated over the day, and this session is the basis for a pleasurable evening and a restful night’s sleep (http://www.tm.org/book/chap_1.html).  Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation causes the mind and body to enter a unique, insightful state of mind that is both restful and alert.  As the body benefits from a deep state of rest, the mind goes into a state of inner tranquility and awareness. 

TM advocates claim that Transcendental Meditation is unlike any other forms of mediation or relaxation techniques.  The TM program is more effective in reducing apprehension, improving mental health, increasing self-awareness, and reducing the abuse of cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol.  Unlike hypnosis, Transcendental Meditation is normal and entails no proposals.  The technique is simple to learn, is easy to practice, and does not include concentration or contemplation, which other forms of meditation and self- improvement do (http://www.tm.org/book/chap_9.html).  “The result: Do less and accomplish more with greater energy, success, and satisfaction in everything you do” (http://www.tm.org/book/chap_9.html). 

A qualified teacher of the TM program is said to be the only person capable of teaching Transcendental Meditation.  The course consists of seven steps.  The first phase consists of an introductory lecture during which the individual is exposed to all of the possible benefits of the TM program.  The second step, the preparatory lecture, teaches each person the procedure and the origin of the TM technique.  Then, the individual must have an interview with a qualified teacher of the TM program.  The fourth step includes personal instruction about how to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique.  “Verification and Validation of Experiences” encompasses the final three phases.  In the first of the three, the individual verifies the precision of the program and receives further instruction.  Then, the person develops an understanding of the TM technique’s mechanics based on personal experiences.  Finally, in the third step of the “Verification and Validation of Experiences,” the individual understands the technicalities of the growth towards higher states of consciousness (http://www.tm.org/main_pages/learn_tm.html).  A toll-free call 1-888-532-7686 provides more information about the Transcendental Program and where an introductory lecture is located nearest you (http://www.mum.edu/tm_program/welcome.html).  One can also visit www.tm.org.  However, to learn the techniques properly, an individual must meet with a personal instructor who is a qualified Transcendental Meditation teacher; one cannot learn from a tape or a book.

 

 

What are the Basic Mediation Techniques?

                                                                                   

Usually, a meditator begins by choosing a word that is associated with his own belief system.  The meditator sits in a quiet area where he can meditate in a comfortable position.  He needs to close his eyes and relax his muscles.  While taking slow, natural breaths, he repeats his focus word as he exhales.  This continues for between ten to twenty minutes.  The meditator needs to concentrate only on his focus word, inhibiting other thoughts from being present.  After the meditation session is complete, he should sit quietly with his eyes shut for a couple of minutes as he allows other thoughts to enter his mind.  He can then rise after sitting for another couple of minutes with his eyes open.  This technique should be practiced once or twice a day.

 

 

What is the Purpose of Transcendental Meditation? 

           

Western physicians and health care associations are employing meditation techniques with increasing regularity in order to treat a varied assortment of medical circumstances (http://www.consciouschoice.com/health/meditation1103.html).  Clinical analyses prove that meditating can increase control of involuntary functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, and brain waves. Scientists believe that meditating for long-term results reduces the quantity of stress hormones and, as a result, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure (http://homearts.com/depts/health/06qab2.htm).  Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of the Mind Body Medical Institute at Boston’s New England Deaconess Hospital, thinks that meditation is a vital complement for medical treatment of depression, anxiety, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, migraine headaches, insomnia, and other various conditions (http://www.consciouschoice.com/health/meditation1103.html). 

 

 

How does Transcendental Meditation Work?                                                                                                                                                          

 

Dr. John Zamarra, a cardiologist in Orange County, California, has experimented and studied the consequences of stress on the functions of the cardiovascular system.  As a result of his research, he has concluded that the Transcendental Program is highly successful in alleviating pressure and stress from the heart muscle.  “’There is more research on the benefits of the Transcendental Program than any other medical procedure to improve health,’ said John Zamarra, M.D.,” an enthusiastic supporter of the Transcendental Meditation Program (http://www.tm.org/news/ashland.html). 

When under stress, the commotion of the sympathetic nervous system is enhanced, and blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration increase (http://www.consciouschoice.com/health/meditation1103.html).  People often turn pale when they are stressed.  This results from circulation changes; blood moves to muscles and vital organs, away from the periphery.  Low amplitude, high frequency beta wave patterns in the brain indicate the stress reaction.  Meditation, however, can reverse the effect of the altered state by inducing high amplitude, low frequency alpha and theta rhythms. 

Transcendental Meditation is effective for people who lead stressful lives and also for those who have less stressful existences.  Steele Belok, M.D., a physician at Mt. Auburn Hospital and also an instructor in Clinical Medicine at Harvard Medical School, said, “[Transcendental Meditation] is a program that not only works extremely well for individuals with high levels of stress, but also other people” (http://www.townonline.com/watertown/entertainment/health/020497_0b7eb14456.html).  Transcendental Meditation also decreases blood pressure by reducing the constriction of the blood vessels, causing a decrease in the possibility of heart disease (http://www.tm.org/news/prpsychol.html).   

 

 

What Evidence is there to Support the Claims that Transcendental Meditation can Lower Blood Pressure? 

 

In one experiment, people were divided into three groups, each following a different program: (1) the Transcendental Meditation program, (2) the Progressive Muscle Relaxation program, or (3) the lifestyle modification-education for non-drug hypertension therapy (http://www.americanheart.org/Whats_News/AHA_News_Releases/964433.html).  The subjects in the TM program and the PMR program received a week of training along with monthly follow-up meetings approximately one to one and a half hours in duration.  “’During TM practice, an individual’s awareness settles down and he or she experiences a deeply relaxed yet fully awake state,’ explains Alexander.  ‘In PMR, people learn a physical approach involving constriction and relaxation of major muscle groups in a systematic manner.’”  Lifestyle changes include losing weight, exercising more, cutting back on salt, and drinking less alcohol. 

Diastolic pressure indicates the pressure between heartbeats.  Systolic pressure is the pressure of the blood flow when the heart beats.  A typical blood pressure reading is about 124/78 mm Hg; the lower number represents the diastolic pressure, and the upper number is the systolic pressure.  A person with a diastolic pressure equal to or greater than 90 mm Hg and/or a systolic pressure equal to or greater than 140 mm Hg for an extended length of time has hypertension, high blood pressure (http://www.americanheart.org/Whats_News/AHA_News_Releases/964433.html).

Before the experiment began, the range of the participants’ diastolic pressures were between 90 and 104 mm Hg with an average of 92 mm Hg, and their systolic pressures were less than or equal to 179 and an average of 147 mm Hg (http://www.americanheart.org/Whats_News/AHA_News_Releases/964433.html).  About fifty percent of the subjects were taking medication for their blood pressure; however, it remained uncontrollable. 

The women who followed the Transcendental Meditation program had systolic pressures 10.4 mm Hg lower than the women who received lifestyle modification-education and 5.6 mm Hg lower than the women who practiced Progressive Muscle Relaxation (http://www.americanheart.org/Whats_News/AHA_News_Releases/964433.html).  Their diastolic pressure was 5.9 points and 4 points lower than the women following the lifestyle modification-education and the PMR program, respectively. 

The men also had similar results.  The men’s systolic pressure was lower by 12.7 mm Hg than the men who received the lifestyle modification-education and 6.6 mm Hg than the men following the Progressive Muscle Relaxation program (http://www.americanheart.org/Whats_News/AHA_News_Releases/964433.html).  Their average diastolic pressure was 8.1 points and 1.9 points lower than men following the lifestyle modification-education and PMR programs, correspondingly. 

From this data, it was concluded that both the men and women who meditated had lower blood pressures than those who followed the lifestyle modification-education and the Progressive Muscle Relaxation programs.  Dr. Hector Myers, PhD, director of the bi-costal study, explains these results by saying, “Our explanation, our hypothesis right now, is that the arteries seem to become somewhat more flexible” (http://www.healthsurfing.com/health/2000/03/13/). 

 

Lower Blood Pressure

(http://www.tm.org/charts/chart_20.html)

 

 

          The Medical College of Georgia conducted an experiment to determine if and how Transcendental Meditation decreases the constriction of blood vessels and also its effects on the heart’s output.  The two tests were performed with a group of eighteen people who were long-term, daily Transcendental meditators and another group consisting of fourteen extremely healthy, middle-aged people who did not meditate (http://www.tm.org/news/prpsychol.html).  Before, during, and after each session, measurements were taken.  In order to measure the participants’ cardiac outputs, vasoconstrictions, heart rates, heart stroke volumes, and blood pressures, a blood pressure cuff and two sets of tetrapolar electrodes were used.  One of the sets of tetrapolar electrodes emitted a current while the other sensed for “thoracic bioimpedance-derived measures of stroke volume” (http://www.tm.org/news/prpsychol.html). 

While the TM group rested for twenty minutes, their systolic blood pressures and their vasoconstriction decreased; the control group’s blood pressures and vasoconstrictions, however, increased during the resting session.  The control group had an increase of 1.6% in vasoconstriction during “eyes-closed relaxation”; however, the Transcendental Meditation group saw a significant decrease of 6.5% in vasoconstriction while they were transcendentally meditating.

            In one experiment, researchers recorded the subjects’ brain waves using an EEG machine.  Within ten minutes of meditating, the Transcendental Meditation group showed significant distinctions from those who only shut their eyes in order to relax.  The results uncovered that Transcendental Meditation causes lower breathing rates, lower levels of skin conductance, higher respiratory sinus arrhythmia levels, and higher alpha waves, brain waves that are only produced when the body is awake (http://www.internethealthlibrary.com/DietandLifestyle/Transcendental_meditation.htm).  These changes occurred after only a minute of meditation and remained throughout the entire Transcendental Meditation session. 

           

 

            Barnes et al. (1999) conducted an experiment, “Acute Effects of Transcendental Meditation on Hemodynamic Functioning in Middle-Aged Adults,” to determine if increased peripheral vasoconstriction plays an important role in the early development of hypertension.  The objective of the study was to investigate the acute effects of Transcendental Meditation on total peripheral resistance (TPR). 

            For this study, 32 healthy, normotensive men and women were recruited.  The subjects included both African American and white people ranging in age from 39 to 55.  18 subjects (8 white women, 9 white men, and 1 African American man) were long-term practitioners of TM (mean years of twice daily TM practice, 22.4 ± 6.7).  14 participants were control subjects (8 white women, 5 white men, and 1 African American man). 

            According to Barnes et al. (1999, p. 526), all the subjects completed an eyes-open resting session after hearing “Now please sit in the chair with your eyes open for 20 minutes.  Please keep your feet on the floor, and do not cross your legs.  From time to time, we will be measuring your blood pressure.  If you need to speak to us at any time, just talk in a normal manner, and we will hear you.”  The instructions for the TM group for their 20-minute meditation session were as follows: “In a few minutes, we will ask you over the intercom to begin meditating.  Please keep your feet on the flood, and do not cross your legs.  From time to time, we will be measuring your blood pressure, so when you feel the cuff inflating, continue your meditation in a normal fashion.  If you need to speak to us at any time, just talk in a normal manner, and we will hear you.  At the end of your meditation, there will be an instruction given over the intercom, and you may take a few minutes before opening your eyes slowly” (Barnes et al., 1999, p. 526).  The control group received similar instructions to the TM group, except they were told “to relax as completely as possible by closing [their] eyes, freeing [their] mind[s] of distracting thoughts, and concentrating on breathing in a slow regular manner” (Barnes et al, 1999, p. 526). 

            Hemodynamics were measured before each session and every 5 minutes during each 20-minute session.  The values of heart rate and cardiac output were averaged, and one measurement for each blood pressure evaluation was calculated.  Blood pressure readings and cardiac output measurements were used in order to calculate TPR [TPR = (SBP + 2 ´ DBP)/3/CO], expressed in mm Hg/ L per minute.

            During the 20 minutes of rest with eyes open, the TM group had a decrease of 2.5 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure; however, the control group had an increase of 2.4 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure (p < 0.01).  There was also a greater decrease in diastolic blood pressure in the TM group compared to the control group (-1.4 vs. –0.5 mm Hg).  TPR decreased in the TM group but increased in the control group (-0.7 vs. +0.5 mm Hg/L per minute, p < 0.004).  See Table 1 and Graphs 1 and 2.

 

 

Table 1.  Within-Session Mean Hemodynamic Changes

 

Eyes-Open Rest                            TM Condition or Eyes-Closed Relaxation

 

TM Group

Control Group

Dp

TM Group

Control Group

Dp

SBP (mm Hg)

-2.5

2.4

0.01

-3.0

2.1

0.04

DBP (mm Hg)

-1.4

-0.5

NS

-2.9

-1.3

NS

TPR (mm Hg/L per minute)

-0.7

0.5

0.004

-1.0

0.3

0.03

*NS = not significant

 

 

Graph 1.  SBP and DBP for the TM Group and the Control Group during Eyes-Open Rest

 

 

 

Graph 2.  TPR for the TM Group and the Control Group during Eyes-Open Rest

 

 

 

            The TM Group also exhibited a decrease in SBP and DBP during TM.  The control group showed an increase in SBP and a decrease in DBP during the eyes-closed relaxation.  However, the diastolic blood pressure measurements were not as significant as the systolic blood pressure measurements.  TRP decreased significantly in the Transcendental Meditation group and increased in the control group (-1.0 vs. 0.3 mm Hg/L per minute, p < 0.03).

 

 

Graph 3.  SBP and DBP for the TM Group and the Control Group during the TM Condition or the Eyes-Closed Relaxation

 

 

 

 

Graph 4.  TPR for the TM Group and the Control Group during the TM Condition or the Eyes-Closed Relaxation

 

 

 

There was also a decrease in the total peripheral resistance (the resistance of blood flow in the vessels) in meditators versus non-meditators.  The meditators experienced a 6.5% decrease in vessel resistance during meditation, but the non-meditators had an increase of 1.6% in vessel resistance (http://www.cholesterol.com/news/199990805-553.html).  The decrease vessel resistance can be attributed to hormone-related reductions in vessel constriction.  It is possible that meditation lowers the levels of endothelin-1, which is a powerful, effective vessel constrictor, or that it strengthens concentrations of nitric oxide, a forceful vessel dilator.

 

 

  Wallace et al. (1983) studied systolic blood pressure measurements in 112 Caucasian subjects (56 males and 56 females) who were practicing either Transcendental Meditation or the TM-Sidhi Program.  All of the participants were between the ages of 35 and 64 years.  Subjects were eligible regardless of health or other problems as long as they practiced the TM technique.  All of the practitioners had been practicing TM for 1 to 180 months before the study began, and 42 of the subjects had been practicing a more advanced form of TM, the TM-Sidhi Program, for 1 to 44 months. 

Systolic blood pressure measurements were recorded using a standard mercury sphygmomanometer.  After 5 to 10 minutes of rest, the systolic blood pressures of the subjects were measured while they were sitting.  Participants were instructed not to meditate during these measurements and were told to keep their eyes open.  Three readings were recorded on two consecutive days at approximately the same time.  The systolic value was then calculated by averaging the six values obtained.     

An average systolic blood pressure of the participants was calculated by sex for three different age groups (35-44, 45-54, and 55-64).  These average SBP’s were compared to the population means derived from the U.S. Department of Health and Welfare publication “Vital and Health Statistics” (Wallace et al., 1983).  The subjects were also grouped according to sex and length of time practicing the TM technique (those meditating for less than 5 years and those meditating for more than 5 years). 

There was a consistent difference between meditators and the general population.  Meditators of every age group for both sexes had lower blood pressure measurements than those of the general population.  See Tables 2 and 3.  These results prove that long-term participants of the TM program, covarying for age, have lower systolic blood pressures, and therefore, the TM Program and the TM-Sidhi Program have beneficial effects on systolic blood pressure.

The results showed that there was a significant difference between the long-term and short-term meditators.  The blood pressures of normotensives already practicing the TM technique did not decrease much during the meditation sessions.  These people were also recorded to have low baseline pressures.  It also appears that regular meditators, especially those who have practiced the TM program for long periods of time, tend to lead healthier lifestyles, such as not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating properly.  Also, women had significantly lower systolic blood pressures than men (p < 0.01). 

 

 

Table 2.  Mean Systolic Blood Pressure by Age for Men

Age

Number of Subjects

Experimental Mean

Population Mean

35-44

21

113.3

127.0

45-54

17

113.9

133.4

55-64

18

117.3

138.5

 

 

Table 3.  Mean Systolic Blood Pressure by Age for Women

Age

Number of Subjects

Experimental Mean

Population Mean

35-44

14

101.9

119.8

45-54

21

111.5

131.8

55-64

21

113.4

137.9

 

 

 

 

In “A Controlled Study of the Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Cardiovascular Reactivity and Ambulatory Blood Pressure,” normotensive subjects were pretested for ambulatory blood pressure and cardiovascular reactivity to stress by means of an array of laboratory stressors.  Wenneberg et al. (1997) recruited 26 healthy Caucasian male subjects.  On the night before testing, all of the volunteers were required to refrain from drinking caffeinated beverages and alcohol, using tobacco, or exercising vigorously. 

            The participants partook in either the Transcendental Meditation Program or the Stress Education Control.  The SEC was an active control situation modeled after the standard TM Program to control expectancy, attention of instruction, and daily time commitment.  The treatment included a 15-20 minute Transcendental Meditation practice twice daily.  The participants were not asked to change their lifestyle, personal beliefs, philosophy, diet, or physical activity.  A qualified instructor of TM taught the participants according to the standard procedures (outlined above).  How to recognize stress, how to deal with and reduce the effect of stress, and time management classes were all course topics covered by the SEC psychologist from the University of Iowa’s Counseling Center.  The SEC and the TM Program lasted between 14 and 16 weeks.

            Between 8:00 AM and 1:00 PM, all laboratory reactivity testing (both pretest and posttest sessions) was conducted.  The laboratory employees were blind to the subjects’ treatment condition.  Each participant completed a health questionnaire about health history and health and exercise habits as well as filling out two identical expectancy questionnaires.

            Blood pressure was measured using an IBS SD-700A fully automated electrosphygmomanometer with the deflation rate set at 3 mm Hg per second.  The blood pressure cuff was placed on the nondominant arm over the brachial artery.  During the baseline task, the participants sat silently with their eyes open, and their blood pressures were measured every four minutes.  A 20-minute baseline session preceded each stressor so that levels of stress hormones would normalize after each stressor.  The three stressors included (1) a six-minute mental arithmetic task, (2) a three and a half minute session of tracing the outline of a six-pointed star from its mirror image only, and (3) a three and a half minute isometric handgrip task that challenged the participants to squeeze a hand dynamometer at 25% of their maximum handgrip strength.

            The volunteers were then outfitted with the 5th version of the Takeda Medical Model TM-2420/TM-2020 ABP monitor, a noninvasive automated blood pressure monitor.  The cuff was placed over the brachial artery of the nondominant arm.  The pressure of the cuff was transmitted to the sphygmomanometer through a 3-way valve. 

            The subjects then had to prepare and deliver a public speech to two laboratory assistants.  The topic of the speech in the pretest was how would one respond to an accusation of criminal conduct, and the topic during the posttest was how would one respond to a flight cancellation to an important business conference.  The subjects had three minutes to prepare their speeches after sitting for five minutes.  Baseline readings were taken every minute during the three minute preparation session and also while the subjects gave their three-minute speeches in a sitting position.  For nine hours after their speeches, the subjects wore an ambulatory monitor that took readings every 15 minutes.  The participants had to record the time of day, location, posture, and activity after each reading. 

            The compliance of the participants was assessed by an overall compliance questionnaire that asked the subjects how regularly they practiced during the behavioral intervention.

            The average pretest systolic blood pressure was 124.8 mm Hg, and the average baseline diastolic blood pressure was 70.6 mm Hg.  The effects of posture, location, physical activity, and time of measurement were statistically adjusted because these factors had an influence on the levels of ABP.  There were no significant differences in changes from pretest to posttest between the treatment groups in average ambulatory blood pressure levels taken during the nine hours of ABP monitoring.  See Table 4.  However, when comparing the levels of compliance of the TM and the SEC subgroups, the high compliance TM group had lower levels of ambulatory diastolic blood pressure.  See Graph 5.

 

 

Table 4.  Change in Ambulatory Blood Pressure for the TM and SEC groups and High Compliance Subgroups

 

Treatment Groups                                 High Compliance Groups

 

TM

N=14

SEC

N=12

Dp

High TM

N=8

High SEC

N=5

Dp

Ambulatory SBP change (mm Hg)

+1.4 ± 1.9

-1.3 ± 2.3

NS

+2.2 ± 3.0

+3.0 ± 3.2

NS

Ambulatory DBP change (mm Hg)

-4.8 ± 2.4

+0.5 ± 2.2

NS

-8.8 ± 3.0

+2.3 ± 2.8

0.044

*NS = not significant

 

 

Graph 5.  Ambulatory Diastolic Blood Pressure after 4 Months Practice of the TM Program or the SEC for All Subjects and High Compliance Subgroups

 

 

 

There were no significant differences between the experimental and control groups in ambulatory blood pressure variability; however, after the 4 month period, the high compliance Transcendental Meditation subgroup had considerably lower ambulatory diastolic blood pressure than the low compliance TM group and the control group.  The practice of TM twice daily lowered the average ambulatory BP levels but did not reduce cardiovascular reactivity to stress.  Therefore, reactivity to stress may not be the device through which TM prevents high blood pressure.  It may be possible to decrease ambulatory diastolic blood pressure in normotensives by practicing TM twice a day.

 

                          

 

 

            Seer and Raeburn (1980) allocated forty-one unmedicated hypertensives (23 males and 18 females between 22 and 62 years of age) with no previous meditation training to three groups.  The first group, the treatment group (SRELAX), underwent training procedures based on the Transcendental Meditation technique.  The subjects were asked to sit for 15-20 minutes twice a day in a quiet, comfortable environment and mentally repeat the mantra “shyam” (the mantra used for all subjects).  The placebo control group (NSRELAX) learned the same training except without a mantra.  The no-treatment control group’s results were compared to both the SRELAX and the NSRELAX groups.

            Blood pressure was measured by a sphygmomanometer.  Each subject had a specific appointment time and was required to be present at that stated time throughout the experiment.  During each appointment, the participant’s blood pressure was recorded five times at 1-minute intervals after having rested for 5 minutes. 11 assessment sessions were conducted throughout the study.  The first four provided the baseline data.  After those readings had been collected, the subjects were randomly assigned to one of the three groups.  All of the subjects returned for five assessments during the 13 weeks of either treatment or control.  After 25 weeks of meditation, the SRELAX and the NSRELAX groups underwent two final follow-up assessments, scheduled one week apart.

            There were slight decreases in systolic blood pressure and more significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure for both of the treatment groups during sessions 5-9, compared with fluctuations between slight increases and decreases for the control group.  Over the sessions, the SRELAX and the NSRELAX groups produced similar decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings.  However, the control group experienced random increases and decreases.  See Tables 5, 6, and 7.  Once the study was completed, the SRELAX and the NSRELAX subjects maintained their blood pressure changes at their follow-up appointments.  For the SRELAX group, the percentage reduction values were 2% for systolic blood pressure and 7.9% for diastolic blood pressure.  The NSRELAX group had a 3.2% decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 10.2% decrease in diastolic blood pressure. 

 

 

Table 5.  Pretest, Posttest, and Follow-Up Blood Pressures for Each Subject in the SRELAX Group

Sex

Age

BP Pretest

BP Posttest

BP Follow-Up

F

23

144/113

137/102

130/87

M

44

151/110

141/98

142/92

F

58

150/110

138/84

159/93

F

50

150/107

139/86

135/89

M

51

147/104

160/105

-

M

45

134/101

130/91

116/85

F

55

178/112

154/94

153/93

M

44

145/99

143/101

147/96

M

49

174/123

159/112

170/121

F

43

166/103

138/89

176/107

M

46

149/93

146/102

141/97

M

26

147/83

149/89

-

F

58

156/95

185/105

191/101

M

32

142/98

147/103

143/98

 

 

 

Table 6.  Pretest, Posttest, and Follow-Up Blood Pressures for Each Subject in the NSRELAX Group

Sex

Age

BP Pretest

BP Posttest

BP Follow-Up

M

34

155/105

139/94

139/76

F

48

152/109

164/106

151/95

M

41

156/116

157/90

155/92

F

46

135/97

115/83

118/79

M

35

137/108

128/91

127/89

F

50

151/104

151/90

149/92

M

28

135/86

119/70

121/68

M

31

146/97

137/87

-

M

62

188/120

182/112

-

F

43

150/89

139/93

129/85

M

58

137/90

148/97

152/99

M

32

137/91

134/96

143/94

F

35

138/95

139/92

149/103

F

39

147/94

141/94

-

 

 

 

Table 7.  Pretest and Posttest Blood Pressures for Each Subject in the Control Group

Sex

Age

BP Pretest

BP Posttest

M

37

133/103

136/104

M

42

125/93

124/94

F

48

190/122

169/118

M

39

161/124

161/117

M

48

141/101

161/104

M

22

168/101

164/87

F

53

145/90

137/85

M

47

139/96

133/100

F

46

153/106

153/108

F

53

145/99

157/111

F

35

145/95

149/102

M

45

152/101

158/109

F

52

150/98

169/119

 

 

            The subjects in both of the treatment groups can be divided into two categories: responders and nonresponders.  The responders had significantly longer hypertension histories than the nonresponders, and therefore, they might have been more motivated to change, resulting in lower blood pressures after meditating.  However, both the SRELAX and the NSRELAX subjects experienced decreases in blood pressure, proving that meditational treatment of hypertension can produce significant results. 

 

                                                 

 

            According to Schneider et al. (1995), African Americans tend to have a higher prevalence, incidence, and severity of hypertension; an earlier onset; more target-organ damage; and is usually treated later and less adequately than white Americans.  Hypertensive diseases, particularly among the 70% of elderly African American hypertensives, result in four to seven times as many deaths as white Americans.

            Schneider et al. (1995) conducted their study to compare the mental (Transcendental Meditation) and physical based (PMR) techniques for reducing stress in the treatment of mild hypertension in 111 African Americans, aged 55 years or older.  Subjects were eligible if their initial BP was between 90 to 109 mm Hg diastolic and less than or equal to 189 mm Hg systolic, regardless if they were taking antihypertensive medications.  The design was randomized, controlled, single blind, and based at a primary-care center.  The three groups were the TM program, PMR, and a lifestyle modification (EC) program.  After undergoing baseline periods of monitoring, the subjects were randomly assigned to one of the three groups for a 3-month intervention program.  Data for all the subjects were collected monthly for 3 months, and the final follow-up measurements were taken at a series of two visits 1 week apart.  The readings were taken after resting (not meditating) for 5 minutes.  A trained research technician also taught the participants how to record their own BP at home.  The subjects recorded their home BP twice a day (in the morning and either in the afternoon or evening) for 1 week at the end of the baseline and intervention phases.

 

 

Table 8.  Baseline Characteristics for the Treatment Groups and the Control Group

Characteristic

TM (n=36)

PMR (n=37)

EC (n=38)

Age

63.7 ± 7.0

69.2 ± 7.2

67.4 ± 7.9

Sex, % male

50

46

31.6

Antihypertensive Medication Status, % taking drugs

39

46

66

Clinic Systolic BP (mm Hg)

93.7 ± 9.3

89.2 ± 7.6

91.7 ± 9.2

 

Clinic Diastolic BP (mm Hg)

79.2 ± 13.2

75.4 ± 12.2

 

79.1 ± 11.5

 

 

            Compared to the EC group, both of the active intervention groups had significant decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressures.  The TM group showed a reduction of 10.7 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure (p = 0.0002) and a decrease of 6.4 mm Hg in diastolic blood pressure (p = 0.00005) in comparison to the lifestyle modification group.  Compared to the EC group, the PMR also experienced a reduction of 4.7 mm Hg in systolic BP (p = 0.054) and a decrease of 3.3 mm Hg in diastolic BP (p = 0.02).  The reductions of the TM group were notably larger than those in the PMR group for both systolic (p = 0.02) and diastolic (p = 0.03) blood pressures.  The home BP results showed that the TM group experienced a greater adjusted reduction of 9.6 mm Hg (p = 0.0004) and that the PMR group showed a reduction of 4.3 mm Hg (p = NS) in comparison to the EC group.  See Tables 9 and 10.

 

 

Table 9.  Change from Baseline in Clinic BP for the Treatment Groups and the Control Group

Parameter

TM (n=36)

PMR (n=37)

EC (n=38)

Clinic Systolic BP Change (mm Hg)

-10.4 ± 1.6

-4.0 ± 1.9

-1.5 ± 2.7

Clinic Diastolic BP Change (mm Hg)

-5.7 ± 1.2

-2.1 ± 0.9

+0.6 ± 1.4

 

 

 

Table 10.  Differences Between Groups in Changes from Baseline in Clinic BP

Parameter

TM-EC

PMR-EC

TM-PMR

Clinic Systolic BP Change (mm Hg)

-8.9 ± 3.1

-2.5 ± 3.3

-6.4 ± 2.5

Clinic Diastolic BP Change (mm Hg)

-6.3 ± 1.9

-2.7 ± 1.6

-3.6 ± 1.5

 

 

            This study proved the feasibility and short-term effectiveness of using stress-reduction treatments, particularly Transcendental Meditation, to reduce mild hypertension in older African Americans.  At a 3-month follow-up, the TM and the PMR subjects had significantly reduced their systolic and diastolic blood pressures compared with the control group.  Furthermore, the TM BP reductions were twice as large as those following PMR.

 

 

                                                           

 

Who is Presenting the Information and Why?

           

Although sites interested in making money present some of the information on Transcendental Meditation, many articles have been published by credible resources, such as the American Heart Association’s journal, the Hustler.  They are interested in informing the public of how to prevent and reduce high blood pressure through alternative therapies (without medication or as a complement to medical treatments).

 

 

Summary

 

            More than fifty percent of people who practice Transcendental Meditation see a decline in mortality rate from heart disease (http://www.tm.org/news/prpsycho.html).  The TM technique causes self-repair within the body using homeostatic mechanisms; this aids in the regression of arteriosclerosis.  The enhancement of the body’s own self-repair devices results from a decrease in hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which decrease the hardening of the arteries in blood vessels (http://my.webmd.com/content/article/1728.55394).  As a result of the decrease in the thickness of the carotid artery, the inside of the artery widens and allows more blood to flow to the brain.

            All of the studies conducted to determine the relationship between Transcendental Meditation and lower blood pressure had p-values of less than 0.05.  Therefore, all of these experiments are statistically significant.  A relation does exist between the two variables; it is not by chance.

            The Hypertension, the American Heart Association’s journal, reported that the results of Transcendental Meditation resembled those of anti-hypertensive medication without the unsafe side effects (http://www.tm.org/news/ashland.html).  Hypotensive agents usually produce unpleasant side effects, causing hypertensives to be less likely to comply with drug regimens.  This is particularly true for elderly hypertensives who are more sensitive to the side effects and for younger hypertensives who face long-term treatment with unwanted side effects.  Not only does meditation help those people with hypertension, but it also can help lower blood pressure in people who are overweight or consume large amounts of salt and/or alcohol, all of which are risk factors for high blood pressure (http://www.yawanna.com/magazine/8/551/).  People who normally drank eleven alcoholic drinks a week reduced the number of alcoholic drinks to five per week after meditating; meditation may make it easier for people to make healthy lifestyle changes.  The Hypertension published an article on March 3, 2000 stating that the amount of fatty deposits in African-Americans who meditated two times per day for seven months decreased (http://www.cnn.com/2000/HEALTH/06/07/minding.heart.wmd/index.html). 

            “’This is the first time we have been able to show that a mind-body technique can reverse this disease,’ says co-author Robert H. Schneider.  ‘It is easy to do, it feels good, [it] has major beneficial effects, and it is cost effective’” (http://me.webmd.com/content/article/1728.55394).  

 

Critique

 

            Although the official Transcendental Meditation website reports that the TM program can only be learned from a trained teacher of TM, this is not true.  Anyone can learn how to meditate; however, attending one or two classes would help those people who are unsure of what to do.  Everyone can meditate by picking a word that has personal meaning.  Sitting in a quiet area and repeating only that word initiates the benefits that everyone will receive from meditating.  Also, there are other forms of meditation that are just as beneficial as Transcendental Meditation.  You can visit http://www.meditationcenter.com for more information and for links to a variety of meditation sites.

            There is a significant amount of research to support meditation as an alternative therapy for lowering high blood pressure; however, there is no concrete evidence to support the theories that Transcendental Meditation can reduce apprehension, improve mental health, increase self-awareness, and reduce the abuse of cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol.

            To produce more accurate results, one could conduct a clinical trial in which subjects would be randomly assigned to one of two groups.  In this experiment, the people within both of the groups would never have meditated before.  One group would learn how to meditate by taking classes taught by professional TM instructors; the other group would meditate by closing their eyes and relaxing as completely as possible.  In order to gather accurate data, the experiment should be conducted for a longer duration of time (preferably for about one year).  The data from this experiment would inform the experimenter if similar results could be achieved without having previously meditated.  This experiment would determine if meditation alone lowers high blood pressure.  Also, the people chosen to meditate and those selected not to meditate should be very similar with respect to their lifestyle habits.  For example, some of the non-meditator participants had very poor lifestyle habits, which could have influenced their results.  High blood pressure is not only due to stress but also to a lack of exercise, bad eating behaviors, excess alcoholic drinking, and smoking.

In conclusion, Transcendental Meditation does lower blood pressure and can only positively affect a person.  However, more research needs to be conducted in order to determine what other benefits might result from this practice.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Barnes, Vernon A. et al. (1999). Acute Effects of Transcendental Meditation on Hemodynamic Functioning in Middle-Aged Adults. Psychosomatic Medicine, 61, 525-531.

 

Schneider, Robert H. et al. (1995). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Stress Reduction for  Hypertension in Older African Americans. Hypertension, 26, 820-827.

 

Seer, Peter & Raeburn, John M. (1980). Meditation Training and Essential Hypertension: AMethodological Study. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 3, 59-71.

 

Wallace, Keith R. et al. (1983). Systolic Blood Pressure and Long-Term Practice of theTranscendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi Program: Effects of TM on Systolic Blood Pressure. Psychosomatic Medicine, 45, 41-46.

 

Wenneberg, Stig R. et al. (1997). A Controlled Study of the Effects of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Cardiovascular Reactivity and Ambulatory Blood Pressure. International Journal of Neuroscience, 89, 15-28.

 

 

 

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