In yet another study demonstrating the mind-body connection in health, Kent State University researchers have found yoga, meditation, and other stress-busting techniques have a drug-like effect in lowering blood pressure.
The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Behavioral Medicine, found that a daily dose of "mindfulness-based stress reduction” — MBSR — can help stave off high blood pressure in those with "prehypertension" and reduce their risks from the heart- and organ-damaging condition.
"Our results provide evidence that MBSR, when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for [blood pressure] in the prehypertensive range," said Joel W. Hughes and colleagues.
The study included 56 women and men with prehypertension, where blood pressure is higher than desirable, but not yet so high that drugs would be prescribed. About 30 percent of Americans have the condition, which is associated with heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
One group of patients received eight group sessions involving sitting meditation, yoga, and/or body scan exercises. They were also encouraged to perform such exercises at home. A second group received lifestyle advice only and engaged in a muscle-relaxation activity. Blood pressure measurements were then compared between groups.
The results showed the stress-busting group had lower blood pressure than the others at the end of the study. Systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg in the other group.
Diastolic blood pressure (the second, lower number) was also lower in the MBSR group: a reduction of nearly 2 mm Hg, compared to an increase of 1 mm Hg in the others.
The researchers concluded that such stress-busting techniques could delay or even prevent the need for drugs.
"Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions," said Hughes, noting the Kent State study is the first to specifically evaluate the blood pressure effects of stress-busting techniques in patients with prehypertension.
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