Can the Transcendental Meditation technique improve my heart health?

Statistics show that 1 in 12 Canadians over the age of 20 live with a diagnosis of heart disease. Heart disease is a major cause of death in this country, so this is an issue we should be concerned with, if not for ourselves, then for our family members. Taking care of your heart now can help you live a long and active life.

One major risk for heart disease is stress. Constant exposure to stress can cause a rise in blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterolall major drivers of heart disease.

By reducing stress, the Transcendental Meditation technique can significantly reduce these three enemies of the heart. Click through these slides to see how TM works.

Why am I so stressed?

There are many factors that contribute to stress, many of them unique to our modern way of life. Contributing factors include:

  • Poor eating habits;
  • Not getting enough sleep and relying on caffeine and other stimulants to get us through the day;
  • Spending to much time on our phone or in from on a TV screen;
  • Neglecting any form exercise of self-care;
  • Not taking the time to personally connect with friends or family.

Exercise, diet, good sleep habits, and a healthy routine can help reduce stress and improve functioning of the heart, but Transcendental Meditation can offer a level of stress reduction and heart health greater than otherwise seen. Even as pandemic restrictions are lifted, stress remains high, so it is worth taking a look at what TM can do to relieve stress and improve the health of your heart.

Can the Transcendental Meditation technique improve my heart health?

The Transcendental Meditation technique is a simple, natural, and effective procedure for allowing the mind and body to gain a profound state of relaxation. It is practised for 15 to 20 minutes, twice daily, while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.

Anyone, including children, can easily learn the practice of TM. TM is not a religion or a philosophy. It does not require a change in one’s beliefs, nor does it prescribe a code of behaviour.

Can the Transcendental Meditation technique improve my heart health?

TM allows the mind to experience a state of restful alertness—a state where the mind is settled, while remaining awake and alert. The process of allowing the mind to settle down is known as transcending and this is achieved easily, even from the first meditation.

While the mind is experiencing this state of “restful alertness”, the body similarly experiences a profound state of rest, as measured by decreased heart rate, breath rate, and other measures. This deep state of rest awakens the body’s self-repair mechanism, allowing the body to balance itself through the normalizing of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.

Can the Transcendental Meditation technique improve my heart health?

Research has shown that stress can cause blood pressure to spike. Constant exposure to stress can cause blood pressure to not just spike, but to stay high all the time. High blood pressure can damage your arteries, by making them less elastic. Decreased elasticity lessens the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease and heart failure.

In 2013 the American Heart Association issued a statement saying that the Transcendental Meditation technique is the only meditation practice shown to lower blood pressure .

A meta-analysis done in 2015 demonstrated the efficacy of TM by looking at the combined results of 12 studies measuring the effect of TM on blood pressure. That study concluded that TM significantly decreased blood pressure, compared with control groups.

Brook R.D., et al. Beyond medications and diet: Alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure.A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension 2013, 61: 6, 1360-1383, 2013.

Bai Z., et al. Investigating the effect of Transcendental Meditation on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis; Journal of Human Hypertension 29, 653-662, 2015.

How can TM lower my cholesterol?

Ongoing exposure to stress causes hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to remain high all the time, and this puts a dangerous strain on your heart. The strain occurs because high levels of stress hormones cause an increase in blood cholesterol.

Too much cholesterol in the blood causes the arteries to narrow, restricting blood flow and oxygen to the heart, leading to chest pain and heart attack.

Regular practise of the TM technique can significantly reduce stress, reduce stress hormones, and consequently reduce cholesterol.

One study on TM measured cholesterol levels in people over a period of 11 months. The TM group showed a mean fasting serum cholesterol which was significantly less than their baseline (p<.005), in some cases as much as a 35% decrease.

Cooper M, Aygen M. Transcendental Meditation in the management of hypercholesterolemia. Journal of Human Stress 1979 5(4):24-27

How can TM help me control my blood sugar?

As we have seen, high levels of stress cause an increase in cortisol and adrenaline. Increased levels of these stress hormones not only increase the levels of cholesterol in the blood but they increase insulin resistance —a physiological condition where insulin does not work efficiently, because the body is resisting it. So, by reducing stress hormones, TM helps restore insulin function and reduces the risk of diabetes.

A study on TM and insulin resistance published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006, shows that practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation program experience a significant decrease in insulin resistance.

Paul-Labrador, Maura, Polk, Donna, Dwyer, James H, Effects of a Randomized Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation on Components of the Metabolic Syndrome in Subjects With Coronary Heart Disease Archives of Internal Medicine, 166(11):1218-24July 2006

Does this mean that TM will reduce my risk of a heart attack and stroke?

Slide 4, above, reveals that the state of restful alertness experienced during TM has a restorative effect on the whole body—that TM is a way to utilize the body’s own internal pharmacy.

A landmark study funded by the American National Institutes of Health found that African- Americans with heart disease who regularly practised TM reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by 48%. The study included 201 men and women whose average age was 59 and who were generally considered obese and been had been diagnosed with heart disease .

While the above study involved African Americans, the deep relaxation experienced during TM provides the improvement of heart health within all people who practise it.

Schneider, Robert H. et al. Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Randomized, Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in Blacks. Circulation Cardiovascular Quality Outcomes, November 13 2012 .