Lowering Blood Pressure and Stress Naturally

Lowering Blood Pressure and Stress Naturally


For the last 30 years my colleagues and I
have been sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and large private foundations in
order to evaluate natural methods to lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and prevent
heart disease. This work has been published in major medical journals in the United States
and around the world. And today I’d like to share with you the results of our work in
how to lower stress and how to lower blood pressure naturally. A very exciting event
happened just in June of 2013, when the American Heart Association reviewed this research and
all available research on alternative methods to lower blood pressure, on stress reduction
methods, meditation and relaxation… And what they concluded is that the Transcendental
Meditation technique is the only mediation practice that has been shown to lower blood
pressure. That’s a remarkable finding, and I’m going to review with you some of the research
on which the American Heart Association based their findings. Another key point that the
American Heart Association noted is that not only does this particular form of meditation,
TM, lower blood pressure consistently, but it is the only mediation practice that has
been shown to reduce death, heart attack, and stroke. This research was published by
the American Heart Association’s journal just about one year ago, and my colleagues and
I were involved in that, and that’s also part of this recommendation to consider this practice
for your own health and well being. But what is Transcendental Meditation anyway? This
meditative practice is described as a simple, natural, and effortless technique to allow
your active thinking mind to become more quiet, to become more settled, until a person experiences
a silent, inner state. This silent inner awareness has been called transcendental consciousness,
or pure consciousness…scientists like to call it a least excited state of awareness…where
a person is awake, but not thinking. And there are dramatic physiological correlates of rest
associated with this state of deep rest and alertness of the level of the mind, so it’s
been called a state of “restful alertness.” Physiologically, the brain shows high levels
of alpha EEG activity, an high levels of coherence, or synchrony, between different parts of the
brain, which is unique with this form of mind/body practice. Physiologically, there are lower
levels of stress hormones, lower levels of metabolic activity, lower activity of the
sympathetic nervous system, which is the stress related part of the nervous system. All indicating
a state of deep rest, on the level of body, along with this relaxed, wakeful state on
the level of the mind. And many doctors and scientists think of this as a fourth major
state of consciousness, this state of restful alertness, which is different from waking,
dreaming, and sleeping, but which is very beneficial for health and well being. This
is a study that my colleagues and I did more than 25 years ago. It’s a classic study where
we recruited 102 subjects with high blood pressure, and we randomly assigned them to
three groups. One group, uh, participated in a standard education, control intervention,
where they learned about conventional methods to alter their diet and exercise more. The
second group learned a conventional relaxation technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
The third group learned Transcendental Meditation. And both of the active groups practiced at
home for 20 minutes twice a day, sitting in any comfortable position, and easily integrated
it into their normal daily routines. Here are the results. After three months, there
was essentially no change in the education group. The relaxation group had a small reduction
in their blood pressure. The Transcendental Meditation group, however, had a large change,
a relatively large change, in their systolic blood pressure and in their diastolic blood
pressure, which was twice as great as with the relaxation group. These results were published
in the top journal in the field of high blood pressure, called “Hypertension,” and showed
in a strong scientific setting, probably for the first time, that an effective mind/body
practice could lower blood pressure as much as some medications for high blood pressure,
and that could start after one month and be consistent over several months practice. Over
the ensuing 20 or 25 years there have been many studies on TM and other relaxation and
stress management practices for their effects on blood pressure. And recently, all of these
different studies on a variety of techniques were reviewed in a study of all the studies,
called a meta-analysis. And this was published in a top medical journal…and the results
showed that when you look at the strong scientifically conducted studies, that muscle relaxation
and stress management, many biofeedback techniques, and combinations of treatments, just don’t
have significant effects in reducing blood pressure. However, when you look at multiple
studies, and put them all together, Transcendental Meditation continued to be effective in lowering
blood pressure, where the others weren’t. And this meta-analysis, or study of all the
studies, was one of the key sources of information that the American Heart Association used when
it conducted its review and published its finding on the distinctive effectiveness of
TM. Now stress and anxiety are very much related to high blood pressure, and may contribute
to heart disease and other conditions as well. A group based at Stanford University reviewed
all the published scientific literature on anxiety, and this was another meta-analysis,
a big study of all the other 146 studies on various meditative and relaxation practices.
And what they found is that there was some effect is that there was some effect in reduced
anxiety with some relaxation techniques, uh, some biofeedback, various meditation practices.
However, on average, most of these practices had…had results that were the same or in
some cases less than placebo. Yet, when you look at the studies of Transcendental Meditation,
the effect was about twice as great in reducing anxiety as for other relaxation techniques.
Why could this be? Physicians and scientists believe that it’s because that during this
meditation practice, people experience the state of restful alertness, this state of
inner silence associated with this brainwave coherence and this very restful state of physiology…it’s
that unique state, that fourth state of consciousness, or fourth state of physiology we can say,
that seems to be responsible for these effects on anxiety, and probably effects on blood
pressure and other health outcomes. In the past year, a group in Europe did a revised,
or uh, uh, a more, an up to date analysis of all the available literature on psychological
stress and mental health, with various meditation practices, looking at the strong scientific
studies. And in this study, which came out, again, just in the past few months, Transcendental
Meditation was significantly more effective in improving psychological health and reducing
stress than studies of mindfulness meditation or other meditation practices. About five
years ago my colleagues and I conducted a study in another high stress group. These
were college students at American University in Washington D.C. and we, in uh, our collaborators
randomly assigned half the subjects to practice TM for a semester, and half the subjects to
continue their normal studies. And what we found, using standardized psychological testing,
is that the students who were practicing TM for a semester has significantly lower levels
of anxiety, significantly lower levels of depression, lower levels of anger and hostility,
along with improvements in coping ability. That means they were able to cope with stress
in their daily lives more effectively, and they show that, in reduced levels of psychological
stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and hostility. And furthermore, these changes in psychological
stress were correlated with lower blood pressure in the subjects who were at high risk for
high blood pressure. There are other risk factors for heart disease. One of them is
called insulin resistance. This is a condition found in many people who are overweight, which
is more than half of the American population, uh, and also people who have high blood pressure.
And this means that the handling of insulin and sugar is not ideal, and it’s…it’s a
condition that pre-disposes to diabetes and heart disease. Our colleagues at Cedars Sinai
Medical Center, along with our institute, with funding from the National Institutes
of Health, conducted a clinical trial, a strong scientific study, on the effects of TM in
heart disease patients compared to conventional health education. We measured their insulin
resistance before and after four months of practice, and found that the Transcendental
Meditation practicing group had significant reductions in their insulin resistance. And
in this case, lower is better, because when you’re not resisting your own insulin, that
means your processing your own glucose, your own body sugar, your own insulin better, and
then you have less tendency for diabetes and heart disease. This was published in the American
Medical Association’s journal, “That Archives of Internal Medicine.” Now the American Heart
Association, again, just within the past few months, reviewed this literature on blood
pressure, they also reviewed the literature on long term effects of meditation, and they
reported that lower blood pressure through Transcendental Meditation practice is also
associated with substantially reduced rates of death, heart attack, and stroke. Let me
show you where that came from. That was a study that took us 10 years to conduct…and
sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is part of the NIH…uh,
this was done in Milwaukee and, uh, based at the Medical College of Wisconsin. And,
in this study, our collaborative team recruited about 200 patients with heart disease, assigned
half of them to a conventional education program, half to practice TM for 20 minutes twice a
day, all continues their usual medications and saw their doctors as normally… Then
we follow them, for more than five years, on average, although it took us more than
that to do the whole study, uh, but each subject was followed individually for more than 5
years. And the results showed that there was a 48% reduction in the rate of death, heart
attack, and stroke in the Transcendental Meditation group. This is really remarkable, because
this effect was as strong, or greater, than studies of conventional medications to treat
heart disease and prevent heart attack and stroke. However, these patients were already
taking usual medicines, and taking their standard medical care. So it’s like the discovery of
a new class of therapy, a new class of medications, but in this case, using the bodies own internal
pharmacy, based on this experience of restful alertness for 15 or 20 minutes twice a day.
Not only are rates of heart disease reduced in studies of Transcendental Meditation, other
studies of several thousand TM practitioners have found lower rates of hospitalization
for other serious conditions also. This study shows 40% to 50% reductions in hospitalization
rates over several years time, in a group of 3,000 TM practitioners, compared to several
hundred thousand controls. Recently the Wall Street Journal reviewed all this information
on…on meditation and health, and what they concluded is that it should be doctor’s orders…20
minutes, twice a day of meditation, to prevent heart disease, lower blood pressure, lower
stress, and improve your health. I agree with the Wall Street Journal, that anyone with
high blood pressure…with, with stress and anxiety, or any risk factor for heart disease,
should consider this practice of TM for their own health and well being. Questions from
the audience…first question…Will my blood pressure drop immediately after learning TM?
Or will I have to wait? Based on my clinical experience and that of other doctors and practitioners,
I would say that many people who learn TM report that they experience immediate benefits,
in their psychological health, in reduction of stress, reduced blood pressure, and improved
well being. Scientists have done studies looking at, uh, monthly measurements of blood pressure,
and in those studies, blood pressure begins to go do down measurably in groups, uh, on
the average, after even one month, and continue to two months, to three months, and… and
even long term. So I would say that the benefits for many people can be immediate, and then
over time they can be even cumulative. Second question…may I discontinue my medications
after learning TM? Again, continue to work with your doctor or healthcare professional,
and as your blood pressure drops with TM practice, then you can coordinate with your doctor or
health care practitioner to adjust your medications properly. Next question…I’ve been hearing
about mindfulness meditation, how are the effects of TM different from it? Based on
the research that I’ve seen, there are some effects of mindfulness meditation, particularly
in the mental health or psychological health arena, however, when you look at the physical
health arena, the American Heart Association has pointed out in particular that Transcendental
Meditation is the only meditation technique that’s shown to reduce blood pressure, and
they particularly commented about other meditation techniques, including mindfulness, and said
that either the data shows no change in blood pressure or there’s just not enough information
to tell. So if you want to go with the scientific evidence…in the blood pressure area, in
the heart disease area…then TM appears to be the most effective technique, and that’s
what the AHA is saying in the…in the BP area. In terms of psychological health, there
is recent meta-analysis data, that means a study of all the studies, which is just published
recently, which shows that while mindfulness does have studies showing improvements in
psychological health, the effect of TM practice are significantly greater, in improving psychological
well being and reducing mental stress. Next question…I’ve tried other meditations and
they’re not very easy, can I do TM? Over the past couple decades and many studies, we’ve
worked with people of…of lower socioeconomic status, people who are low income, people
who are low education, people who are high income and people high education…we’ve worked
with younger people, we’ve worked with older people…and what we found in…in our studies
and projects, in that anyone can practice Transcendental Meditation. It seems to tap
into, uh, an inherent ability in the human nervous system, in everyone’s physiology,
to experience the state of restful alertness, to settle down and relax, and yet stay awake…
So I would say, based on my experience, anyone can do it, and I haven’t heard of anyone who
can’t. Next question…Can children and teens with stress and anxiety practice TM? There
have been studies on, uh, school children, done at the Medical College of Georgia, and
in other places, showing that Transcendental Meditation can be incorporated into a school
routine. In these projects, children come in and their first class of the day, their
homeroom class, is meditation, with TM, for 10 minutes, and then the last class of the
day is TM. Studies have been done in schools where there are many ADHD children, or children
suffering from that disorder, and in those schools, children, uh, learned very well this
practice, and they even have reductions in their ADHD symptoms, and other symptoms of
stress and anxiety. So yes, children and teens can learn the practice, according to the published
studies…and, too show benefits, both in terms of lower blood pressure, lower heart
disease risk, and reduced stress. And remember that heart disease begins in childhood…we
have such an increase in rates of overweight and rates of…of high blood pressure, even
in children now, and rates of stress…and that has effects not only on the children’s
quality of life at the time, but that will have great effects on their health over the
next 10, 20, or 30 years. So yes they can, and yes, the data suggests that, uh, the would
have a lot of benefit, both short term and long term, from practicing this technique.

2 thoughts on “Lowering Blood Pressure and Stress Naturally”

  1. "sponsor" has a very specific meaning that may get you slapped down. Instead, you should use "Research funded by teh NIH" is less likely to get complaints leveled at you.

  2. Thank you dear Prof.Robert Schneider for your enlightening presentation in our Berlin TM-Center yesterday (10.12.2014).
    Very interesting also the results in Epigenetics….Best wishes, Claus

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