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Meditation may reduce heart disease risk

Black adolescents with high normal blood pressure who practice transcendental meditation improve the ability of their blood vessels to relax and may reduce their risk of becoming adults with cardiovascular disease, researchers say.

After eight months of meditation, these adolescents experienced a 21 percent increase in the ability of their blood vessels to dilate compared to a 4 percent decrease experienced by their non-meditating peers, says Dr. Vernon A. Barnes, physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia's Georgia Prevention Institute and lead investigator on the study.

"Our blood vessels are not rigid pipes," says Dr. Barnes. "They need to dilate and constrict, according to the needs of the body. If this improvement in the ability to dilate can be replicated in other at-risk groups and cardiovascular disease patients, this could have important implications for inclusion of meditation programs to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and its clinical consequences.

"We know this type of change is achievable with lipid lowering drugs, but it's remarkable that a meditation program can produce such a change," the researcher says.

In the April 2004 issue of the American Journal of Hypertension, Dr. Barnes and his colleagues reported that 15 minutes of twice-daily transcendental meditation steadily lowered the blood pressure of 156 black, inner-city adolescents and their pressures tended to stay lower.

This new study, being presented during the 63rd Annual Scientific Conference of the American Psychosomatic Society held March 2-5 in Vancouver, focused on 111 of those adolescents, 57 who meditated and 54 controls.

MCG researchers found among the meditators an increased ability of the blood vessel lining, called the endothelium, to relax. "Dysfunction in the ability of the endothelium to dilate is an early event in heart disease, a process that starts at a young age," says Dr. Barnes.

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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
2-Mar-2005


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