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ASHEVILLE, May 30, 2013: A new report from the American Heart Association (AHA), released in April, concluded that the Transcendental Meditation (or "TM") technique is effective for lowering blood pressure, and recommends that the TM technique be considered in clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of hypertension.
The report, “Beyond Medications and Diet — Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association,” informs physicians and health professionals about alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure, and identifies which approaches have been shown by research to be effective—and which are not effective.
The Transcendental Meditation technique is described on the Asheville TM Center website as "a non-religious form of meditation, practiced for 15-20 minutes twice daily, sitting comfortably in a chair with eyes closed." The Asheville TM Center—the local chapter of non-profit education foundation—is sponsoring a series of talks on the topic of "Transcendental Meditation for Reducing Stress and Normalizing Blood Pressure," beginning June 6, 13 and 20, at the 165 East Chestnut Street teaching center. The talks are free and open to the public. For more information please call 254-4350.
After considering the latest scientific evidence on different types of meditation, the report stated that meditation or relaxation techniques other than the TM technique cannot be recommended. The report states: "All other meditation techniques (including mindfulness) received a 'no benefit level of evidence.’ Thus, other meditation techniques are not recommended at this time.
The impetus for this statement from the AHA came, in part, from patients themselves, who are sometimes reluctant to take medication. “A common request from patients is, ‘I don’t like to take medications, what can I do to lower my blood pressure?’ said Robert Brook, M.D., chair of the expert panel that authored the report. “We wanted to provide some direction.”
The report found that Transcendental Meditation practice lowers blood pressure on average 5 mmHg systolic and 3 mmHg diastolic. Robert Schneider, MD, FACC, principal investigator for several research studies on the TM technique and cardiovascular disease, pointed out that for millions of people with high blood pressure, this reduction may help to bring them into a more normal range or prevent the need for hypertension medication with attendant side effects and costs.
Clinical trials have shown that lower blood pressure through TM practice is associated with significantly lower rates of death, heart attack and stroke.
C. Noel Bairey Merz is professor of medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and principal investigator for an NIH-sponsored clinical trial on TM and cardiovascular health. Says Merz: “We are gratified that our research demonstrating the efficacy of TM on blood pressure is being recognized and hope that this consensus will result in its wider use in clinical practice.”
The report also recognized that the Transcendental Meditation technique is considered safe and without harmful side effects. As an additional advantage, the statement suggested that the TM technique may provide a range of health or psychological benefits beyond BP lowering or cardiovascular risk reduction.
The report concluded, “It is the consensus of the writing group that it is reasonable for all individuals with blood pressure levels >120/80 mm Hg to consider trials of alternative approaches as adjuvant methods to help lower blood pressure when clinically appropriate.”