Meditation as an Additional Therapy for Heart Disease

The American Heart Association suggests sitting meditation could be beneficial to heart health.

The gold standard of treatment for heart disease is medication and lifestyle changes, including exercise and a heart healthy diet. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released a new scientific statement published in the Journal of the American Heart Association that suggests meditation may have potential cardiovascular benefits, in addition to current guidelines.

Many studies have shown that meditation can have positive changes on the brain and the body, which caused the AHA to analyze scientific studies to determine whether it could improve heart health as well.

Approximately 8% of Americans practice meditation and 17% of patients with heart disease were interested in participating in a clinical trial of meditation, according to the National Health Interview Survey, the AHA reported.

Included in the panel were a group of heart disease experts and a neuroscientist. Excluded from the analysis were mind-body practices that involve physical activity, which is known to improve cardiovascular health.

The authors found that sitting meditation may decrease levels of stress, anxiety, and depression, while improving sleep and well-being, according to the study.

The studies also indicate that meditation may also have a positive effect on blood pressure; however, there is not enough information to determine how it may affect each person.

Notably, meditation shows promise as a way to help with smoking cessation. Smoking is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

A few studies also suggested that sitting meditation could decrease the risk of experiencing a heart attack. The experts caution that more studies are needed to better understand its effects on heart attack risk.

However, the authors caution that more studies are needed to make a firm conclusion about meditation’s role in heart health.

“Although studies of meditation suggest a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk, there hasn’t been enough research to conclude it has a definite role,” said Glenn N. Levine, MD, chair of the writing group of the AHA statement.

Until more is known about meditation and its benefits, the gold standard for heart disease prevention and treatment is lifestyle changes and medication, which has been extensively proven, according to the study.

“Since education on how to meditate is widely available and meditation has little if any risk associated with it, interested people may want to use these techniques, in addition to established medical and lifestyle interventions, as a possible way to lower heart disease risk,” Dr Levine said. “However, it’s important that people understand that the benefits remain to be better established and that meditation is not a substitute for traditional medical care.”