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What Happens When You Meditate?
Meditation is a simple yet powerful tool for improving your health. It is particularly beneficial for any condition that is related to stress – such as the major heart attack risk factor, high blood pressure. Chronic pain, anxiety, and poor immune health are also alleviated with meditation.
How does simply sitting still, clearing your mind, and breathing improve serious medical conditions? By meditating regularly several changes occur in the body — metabolism and heart rate slows, breathing becomes more efficient, brain waves change, and blood pressure lowers. What's even more positive is that using meditation for high blood pressure produces long-lasting effects. With no price tag, negative side effects, or risk involved (except for people with psychosis), why not start meditating and lower your risk of heart disease?
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Research on Meditation and Heart Health
Researchers have found what practitioners have known for centuries, that meditation induces a tranquil state and increases calm. It lowers blood pressure and teaches both the mind and body to stay in a more relaxed state during the day, as well as to be able to easily access feelings of peace and relaxation.
There have been several studies on the link between meditating and cardiovascular health, such as one published in the American Journal of Hypertension. This study showed that teenagers were able to lower their blood pressure by a few points by meditating twice a day for fifteen minutes for four months. A long-term study, involving just 200 people at high risk for heart disease (African-American men and women with an average age of 59 and narrowed arteries) found that those who practiced meditation for the duration of the nine year study significantly lowered their blood pressure levels. There was also a 47 percent decrease in the number of deaths, heart attacks, and strokes among the group of participants who regularly meditated. This study was conducted at the Centre of Natural Medicine and Prevention at the Maharishi University in Iowa.
According to the University of Maryland Medical center, meditation is good for the heart and reducing blood pressure, although more research is needed to officially confirm this claim.
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For those who would like to try meditation for high blood pressure, consider taking ten to twenty minutes out of your day to meditate. To make it a daily habit, try to use the same time everyday, such as when you wake up, a quiet moment during the day, or before going to bed. Sit in a comfortable, quiet location, close your eyes, and clear your mind.
- Make your meditating place as comfortable and serene as you would like. Doing simple things such as lighting a candle, turning on meditation music, or stretching before you begin can help prepare your mind and body to begin meditating.
- Don't put any pressure on yourself, simply clear your mind and focus on your breathing. There are numerous meditation techniques that you can investigate and try. Do what works for you.
- Start with only one minute, two minutes, five, and then ten minutes. Build-up to twenty minutes instead of forcing yourself to sit still.
Meditation is not only beneficial for your heart, but for your overall health. It is still important to not use this therapy as a substitute for regular medical care.
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"Meditation eases heart disease" (BBC News, November 17, 2009) <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8363302.stm>
University of Maryland Medical Center <http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_some_specific_stress_reduction_methods_000031_7.htm>
Balch, Phyllis A. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).
photo by Lisa Omarali
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