New research suggests that practicing meditation may help keep cholesterol and blood pressure down, while lowering the risk for diabetes, stroke, and coronary artery disease.
HOUSTON — Some people take to meditation like a fish to water, while others struggle to understand what all the hype is about. One new study offers those considering the practice some heart-healthy reasons to give some mindfulness a try. Researchers have found a connection between meditation and improved cardiovascular health outcomes.
The study shows that people who meditate are less likely to experience high cholesterol and high blood pressure in comparison to those who don’t meditate. Similarly, the authors write that meditation may also lower the risk of diabetes, coronary artery disease, and stroke. The research is a collaboration between the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center at Baylor College of Medicine, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
This isn’t the first time that meditation has been linked to strong heart health. The research team for this study, however, sought out more definitive findings. So, they utilized health data from over 61,000 Americans. Of that large population sample, just under 6,000 (around 10%) meditate at least semi-regularly.
How meditation can protect the heart
Among all of the study’s findings, meditation’s effect on coronary artery disease is the most striking. Those who don’t meditate are roughly twice as likely to develop the disease. Meanwhile, in comparison to non-practitioners, meditators are only 65% as likely to suffer from high cholesterol and 70% as likely to develop diabetes. The research shows they’re also 76% as likely to suffer a stroke, and 86% as likely to have blood pressure.
These findings hold up even after researchers account for other potentially influential factors, such as age, sex, smoking habits, and BMI.
“I believe in meditation, as it can give us a sense of calm, peace, and stress reduction, leading to improvement of our emotional well-being,” explains lead researcher Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong in a release.
This is just the latest in a long list of benefits that come with meditation. Meditating is linked to lower stress levels, greater wellbeing, and stronger psychological health in general.
However, the authors do make it a point to note their work’s limitations. To start, they do not account for all of the different types of meditation. Moreover, participants were not asked about the length or intensity of their personal meditation sessions. Both of these elements may greatly influence meditation’s effect on one’s cardiovascular health.
Based solely on this study, researchers can’t say for sure that meditation directly lowers one’s cardiovascular risk factors. It’s plausible that people who are already healthy from a heart perspective are more prone to trying out meditation. More research is necessary to clarify these important distinctions.
It’s also worth noting that other unhealthy lifestyle choices, like excessive alcohol consumption or a poor exercise regiment, may nullify or at least somewhat mitigate meditation’s cardiovascular benefits.
The study is published in the American Journal of Cardiology.