Meditation may do more than relax the mind, according to a recent statement from the American Heart Association that explores the potential benefits of meditation on cardiovascular health.
Published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, this paper included a systematic review of existing data on meditation and cardiovascular risk. The goal was to see whether meditation, which is a safe and low-cost practice, could be useful when it comes to heart disease—the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States.
Based on existing evidence, experts agreed that meditation may promote heart health and reduce cardiovascular risk. For example, studies suggest that meditation may help lower blood pressure, aid in smoking cessation, and reduce mortality risk from heart disease. Studies have also linked meditation to healthier arteries and improved blood flow to the heart.
However, the effects of meditation on cardiovascular outcomes were modest. Experts explain that many studies did not meet the gold-standard of research design. Many studies on the topic were also small and can’t be generalized to the overall population.
Authors note that the paper reviewed the effects of sitting meditation, rather than practices like tai chi and yoga, which involve both mental and physical activity. Examples of meditation included samatha, vipassana, zen and raja yoga meditation, all of which tend to focus on breathing, posture and mindfulness.
Ultimately, authors conclude that meditation has possible cardiovascular benefits, although the association between meditation and cardiovascular health is not clearly established. Experts encourage additional research on meditation, especially those with randomized study design and long-term follow-up. But in the meantime, given the low costs and risks associated with meditation, they explain that it’s reasonable to consider meditation in combination with a healthy lifestyle and established therapies.