Health

The promise of meditation for the heart and mind

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Meditation may be as old and popular as religion or as a mystic experience. Evidence of meditation’s use can be found back as far as 7,000 BC. Some scholars speculate that it could have been developed by people who sat in caves gazing into the fires.

It’s also the center of serious scientific attention. Although much of the research is preliminary, researchers are eager to learn more about possible health benefits.

“Interest in meditation is vast—and is deep,” said Dr. Prab Nijjar, a cardiologist and assistant professor at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Minneapolis.

Nijjar, who has conducted studies on meditation and the heart, warns that there is probably more to meditation’s benefits than we know. He is not the only one who sees the potential.

A 2016 reportIn the Annals of New York Academy of SciencesAccording to them, most American medical schools are accredited to incorporate mindfulness-based practices into their programs. And 2017 scientific statement from the American Heart Association noted that as many as 1 in 4 people with heart disease use or have used some form of mind‐body therapy such as meditation.

Nijjar stated that meditation can be loosely defined as “bringing awareness into every moment”, but definitions vary, making it difficult for researchers to determine what meditation means.

Karen Saban, a professor at Loyola University Chicago’s Marcella Niehoff school of nursing, said that there are many types of meditation and mindfulness-informed practice.

Saban’s research is focused on mindfulness meditation. She said that mindfulness is about being aware of what you are thinking and accepting the feelings and sensations. Without judging or interpreting, it is about becoming mindful. “So you can be fully present and in the moment, and not try to change anything.”

Nijjar explained that mindfulness meditation is based on focusing on breathing. Transcendental meditation might use chanting to achieve the same awareness.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or MBSR is a method that helps researchers reduce stress in research. It was developed at the University of Massachusetts Medical School by Jon Kabat Zinn in 1979. It’s a standard eight-week program with certified instructors.

Research has at least suggested that mindfulness meditation could have a positive effect on the body.

In studiesMBSR training helped to reduce pro-inflammatory chemicals by involving people with breast cancer in the early stages and elderly lonely people. Saban stated that inflammatory markers contribute to cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis.

Another study looked at whether the chromosomes in long-term meditators showed fewer signs of aging. Multiple studies have also shown that MBSR causes brain structure changes.

Saban stated, “There is some belief that mindfulness meditation can lead neuroplastic changes within the brain that regulate things such as attention, emotion and self awareness.” It’s possible that by changing connectivity within the brain, “it can help develop emotional regulation, help develop resilience against stress, and then ‒ hopefully, ultimately ‒ improve the ability to deal with stress.”

Nijjar’s work examined whether meditation might help those undergoing cardiac rehabilitation. A 2019 study of 47 heart patients was published by him. Scientific ReportsIt was found that those who received MBSR training had a greater reduction in depression after three months than those who didn’t.

Research published in the Journal of the American College of CardiologyThe potential for yogaMeditation is a method that improves the quality of life for people suffering from atrial fibrillation, a condition where irregular heartbeats can cause irregular symptoms.

Nijjar didn’t explain why meditation could help with cardiovascular issues. However, his research suggests meditation could boost the parasympathetic nerve system, which manages “rest-and-digest” functions, and calm down the sympathetic nervous system which drives the “fight and flight” response.

According to the 2017 AHA scientific statement, there were no conclusions regarding meditation’s effectiveness in preventing heart disease. However, it stated that meditation could be considered a reasonable addition to more established methods.

Saban says anyone interested in starting should realize that it takes practice.

“It sounds easy but it’s very difficult for you to sit still and not let all your thoughts wander,” she stated.

Experts suggest that classes taught by a certified MBSR instructor might be beneficial. An introduction to meditation could also be provided by apps.

Saban stated that future research could provide more information about meditation’s effectiveness for different groups of people. She is currently preparing to publish the results of a randomised clinical trial on how it affected veterans women. Its potential benefits are being studied by a colleague. Black mothers who recently gave birth.

Saban said that meditation is a skill that anyone can learn.

She said, “It’s secure.” It doesn’t require medication. It’s quite affordable. It’s something they can control. It’s possible to do it almost anywhere.


Research has shown that short-term mindfulness training does not cause structural brain changes.


Provided by
American Heart Association


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