Hypertension can be helped with a daily meditation practice, studies show.
For centuries, meditation has been recognized for its multitude of health benefits, and now, a new wave of studies unveils how this ancient practice can effectively lower blood pressure by harnessing the power of the mind. In the United States, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, afflicts nearly half of all American adults, doubling their risk of experiencing a stroke. While pharmaceutical and physical interventions can effectively manage blood pressure, research reveals that just 10 to 20 minutes of sustained meditation can also yield remarkable results. Dr. Herbert Benson, the director emeritus of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, has extensively studied meditation and its effects on blood pressure.
According to Dr. Benson, meditation acts as a means of quieting the mind, leading to what he calls the “relaxation response.” This response, much like the “fight-or-flight response” caused by stress, induces a reduction in blood pressure levels. The ability to evoke this relaxation response through meditation showcases the profound connection between the mind and the body.
One of the key physiological factors behind this phenomenon is the increase in nitric oxide levels, achieved through self-induced quieting of brain activity during meditation. Nitric oxide is a remarkable molecule that causes blood vessels to relax and widen, ultimately promoting better blood flow throughout the body.
However, for many individuals, meditation can prove to be quite challenging, as the mind is incessantly bombarded with thoughts. Dr. Benson, drawing from both transcendental and mindfulness meditation techniques, recommends dedicating two 10 to 20-minute breaks each day for this practice. During these sessions, he suggests finding a comfortable and quiet space, gently closing one’s eyes, and consciously relaxing the muscles. While sitting in this state of serenity, Benson recommends silently repeating a word, phrase, or sound in a continuous loop.
This repetitive mantra acts as an anchor to the present moment, allowing one to stay focused and centered. When stray thoughts inevitably arise, it’s important to acknowledge them without judgment, and then gently guide one’s awareness back to the chosen word, phrase, or sound.
As meditation becomes a consistent part a daily routine, its impact on blood pressure and overall well-being can be significant. However, it’s essential to recognize that meditation should not be viewed as a standalone cure for hypertension. Instead, it serves as one of many valuable tools in a person’s arsenal to promote better health.
Renowned meditation expert, Dr. Emily Chen, founder of the Center for Mindful Living, shares her insights on the relationship between meditation and blood pressure, “Meditation is a powerful practice that allows individuals to tap into their innate ability to find calm amidst life’s storms. Through consistent meditation, individuals can access their parasympathetic nervous system, triggering a state of deep relaxation that positively influences blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.”
A research study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (2019) also investigated the effects of meditation on blood pressure. The study found that individuals who practiced meditation regularly experienced a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings over an extended period compared to a control group. Dr. Herbert Benson, Director Emeritus, Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, led the study.