According to researchers from Ohio, mindfulness (the practice of focusing attention and awareness on the moment) can help lower blood pressure.

A Quick Look

The study was published in Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.

It shows that patients with borderline high blood pressure who went through a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program were able to successfully reduce their blood pressure levels.

The Silent Killer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 1 in 3 adult Americans have hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • 68 million adult Americans have hypertension
  • Many people are unaware they have hypertension
  • Hypertension presents no warning signs or symptoms

Team of emergency medical service

According to researchers from Kent State University:

  • Borderline high blood pressure (prehypertension) affects 30% of Americans
  • Prehypertension is attracting medical attention
  • Prehypertension has associated risks of cardiovascular disease
  • Patients with prehypertension may be prescribed medication as treatment
  • Researchers say MBSR may be a useful alternative to medication

How to Reduce Stress

MBSR is becoming increasingly popular in the medical community.

Prof. Jon Kabat-Zinn was one of the first to see the benefits. He explains:

  • He devised a behavioral program to help people cope with stress and be more at ease
  • He incorporated techniques like meditation, mind-body exercises, and gentle yoga
  • MBSR has Buddhist roots but is usually taught in a nonreligious format

According to Joel W. Hughes, Ph.D. and lead author of the study:

  • MBSR is an increasingly popular practice
  • May alleviate stress
  • May treat depression and anxiety
  • May treat certain health conditions

The Study

The details:

  • 56 men and women 
  • Diagnosed with prehypertension
  • They were not prescribed drugs
  • Group was randomly divided into two groups
  • One group was assigned an MBSR program
  • The other group was given lifestyle advice and a muscle-relaxation activity

Trainer guiding senior people in meditating exercise

The MBSR group sessions went as follows:

  • 2.5-hour sessions for 8 weeks
  • An experienced instructor guided them
  • 3 main types of mindfulness training were used
  • Body scan exercises (drawing awareness to particular parts of the body)
  • Sitting meditation
  • Yoga exercises
  • Group was also encouraged to practice these at home

In the end, researchers compared blood pressure readings between both groups.

The Results

MBSR group results:

  • Lower readings for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure
  • On average, the systolic reading decreased by almost 5 mm Hg
  • On average, the diastolic reading decreased by almost 2 mm Hg

Control group results (lifestyle advice):

  • Less than 1 mm Hg drop in systolic pressure
  • Increase of 1 mm Hg in diastolic pressure

No significant difference in blood pressure was noted between the groups in ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. This is where blood pressure is monitored over 24 hours.

Conclusion

Prof. Hughes concludes that:

  • Blood pressure reductions were similar to many drug interventions
  • They may potentially be enough to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack
  • MBSR may be an appropriate complementary treatment
  • This is for blood pressure in the prehypertensive range

Further research is necessary to determine if the blood-pressure-lowering effects can be maintained over a long period of time.