Can Meditation Lower Risk of Heart Attack?

An infrequent attender of yoga classes, my favorite part of the yoga experience is naturally the five minute nap allowed at the end of class.  Any form of exercise that ends by laying on a mat and closing my eyes gets my vote.  Of course I assume this is more of a 'cool down' included so participants don't pass out after an hour of standing on their heads or doing downward dog.  It turns out, however that my post-yoga mini nap may be good for heart health.

A recent study shows that transcendental meditation may help prevent death from heart attack and stroke in African Americans suffering from heart disease.  In this five year study, obese African American individuals either attended a 20 minute health education class where educators taught diet and exercise tips or were assigned to a 20 minute transcendental meditation program.   

After five years, participants in the transcendental meditation group had a 48% reduction in overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death compared to those in the health education group.  Meditation participants also had a 5mmHG drop in blood pressure and reported decreases in anger levels.  They were also more likely to stop smoking than participants in the education group.  Most participants in the study meditated for 20 minutes an average of 8.5 times each week.  Individuals who meditated 14 times each week experienced even better outcomes than those who meditated less.

Although this study included only a small number of participants and needs to be researched further, it has excellent implications for our patients.  Meditation requires little skill, has zero negative side effects and best of all it's free!  Nurse practitioners should consider recommending meditation to their heart disease patients (with an open mind).