Meditation has long been considered a healthy lifestyle practice. Many people swear by its ability to reduce daily stress, improve emotional well being, and boost overall health. Among meditation’s many uses, meditation for heart health is coming to the forefront as one of meditation’s amazing benefits.
Recently the American Heart Association (AHA) reviewed dozens of studies on how meditation impacts heart health. The report supports the healing effects of meditation. With more than $200 billion spent annually on heart disease, it would serve humanity well to find inexpensive, healthy, and readily available alternatives. Meditation is rising up as a strong preventative to stress, which can not only prevent adrenal fatigue, but may reduce risk factors for heart disease as well.
By helping to avoid stress and many several common disease risk factors, can meditation improve heart health and prevent adrenal fatigue?
Meditation for Heart Health: A Statement by the AHA
In the Journal of the American Heart Association a scientific statement was released entitled “Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association”. This is the first time the AHA has issued a statement in regards to meditation and heart health. The experts at the AHA have reviewed dozens of studies which were conducted on meditation. The studies reviewed covered eight forms of meditation, their effects on heart disease risk factors, and the recovery of those that had suffered heart disease, such as heart attacks. The risk factors studied included stress, smoking, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis.
The ground-breaking review set forth by the AHA is an innovative scientific review that incorporates long held beliefs about meditation’s health benefits with scientific research. The AHA’s findings may open the way to an entirely new field of medical developments for improving the health of the heart and body.
Conclusions of the Study
For many years, it has been speculated that mediation for heart health may be a possible alternative to modern standardized medicines, and the new findings by the AHA show support for this ideology. Dr. Glenn Levine, Chair of the American College of Cardiology task force on clinical practice guidelines, says that the studies have shown encouraging results.
However, Dr. Levine also suggests that the data is not yet conclusive to recommend meditation for heart disease as the only way of managing the condition. Though the results were promising, Dr. Levine’s group still encourages using existing methods besides meditation for heart disease, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and lowering cholesterol.
“Our clear message is that meditation may be a reasonable (additional) intervention, but we specifically do not want people to rely on meditation or other such adjunctive interventions in place of proven therapies,” states Levine. “Meditation should be considered as a potential lifestyle modification, but should not be used to replace standard and proven treatments such as smoking cessation, blood pressure control and adrenal fatigue treatment of high cholesterol levels.”
Many of the studies covered the effects of meditation on reducing several of the factors common in heart disease, such as meditation and lower blood pressure, meditation and lower stress, etc.. The studies do suggest that meditation at the very least reduces stress and blood pressure, which are both considered strong risk factors in general heart disease. Addressing stress concerns can reduce stress hormones which have been linked to higher risks of heart attack. Lowering blood pressure can damper the risk of general heart disease. Meditation appears to both reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
What You Can Take from the Report
Meditation can be included as part of your daily heart-healthy strategy, so long as you understand that the data has not yet conclusively proven that meditation for heart health has tangible benefits. The AHA and Levine state in the report that they believe people interested in improving their hearts health should certainly consider meditation for heart health, so long as they are also including other “scientifically proven” techniques to reducing risk of heart disease. Levine says “we are extremely encouraged by the findings,” and continues to say that more studies will be necessary to prove the practice of meditation for heart health works definitively.
An Introduction to AFS
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome or AFS is a condition that will likely affect almost everyone at some point in their lives, yet most physicians don’t even know what it is. The most prevalent symptoms of AFS are lethargy and fatigue, but they also include anxiety, insomnia, brain fog, and an inability to lose weight.
AFS is a condition which afflicts the adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for producing several hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. These glands are also responsible for maintaining metabolic process such as balancing blood sugar levels, regulating inflammation, regulating the balance of salt and water in the body, and controlling the “flight or fight” response which is brought on by stress or danger.
The most common cause of AFS is constant and unrelenting stress. The ability to handle environmental and emotional stress is a major key to survival. To cope with stress the body has a system in place, known as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. A major component of this NEM response system is the adrenal glands. Over the years, constant stress taxes the adrenal glands, which causes the glands to become fatigued, reducing your body’s ability to deal with stress and creating a range of issues.
Meditation and Stress Reduction
Meditation practices come in a variety of forms including breathing, sustained focus on an image or sound, and quiet contemplation. Meditation and mindfulness practices can help improve mental clarity and memory. It can also help you to feel more calm and to let go of stress.
Stress activates your body’s alarm system, initiating the NEM and causing adrenaline to be released into your body, which in turn can speed up your heart rate, raise blood pressure, and cause breathing to become more rapid. This reaction is an effective means to escape danger. However, stress can take a toll on your body if it occurs too often or for long periods at a time, and this is a major cause of AFS and risk factors for heart disease.
Meditation is a great way to modulate your stress levels. It can have even bigger benefits when coupled with adrenal breathing exercises. Adrenal breathing exercises help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the antagonist to your flight or fight system. This helps to suppress adrenaline production in your body.
Coupling these breathing exercises with mindfulness meditation can work wonders.
Though meditation is an effective stress reducer, it should not be used as a replacement for any doctor approved method you may currently be using to manage heart disease risk or for AFS prevention.
Types of Meditation
There are many forms of meditation including mantra, relaxation, transcendental, zen, qigong, tai chi, yoga, and more. Mediation can be as simple as sitting in a quiet space and focusing on your breathing, or it may involve practicing a series of moments like in tai chi.
Perhaps the most popular form of meditation is transcendental meditation, which was made popular by American authors Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. This form of meditation is a practice that allows you to focus inward on yourself. The technique is practiced by being mindful of the thoughts going through your mind, and the sounds from your outside environment, without directly engaging them. Typically it is done in a seated position with your eyes closed for 20 minutes, twice daily.
Another form of mindfulness meditation uses an object, sound, or thought to focus on. Rather than focusing on no thought in general like transcendental meditation, it helps you reach clarity by maintaining focus on one thought, sound, or phrase.
Strong evidence put forth by the AHA shows that meditation for heart health as a daily practice can reduce the risk factors associated with heart disease, such as stress, which is also a major factor in AFS. Reducing these risk factors through mediation may promote heart health, reduce the risk of heart disease, and prevent AFS.
The AHA suggests adding meditation to your daily routines as an easy, low-cost preventative to heart disease. However, though meditation for heart health appears to be effective, it is also important to protect your health by pairing meditation with scientifically proven methods of heart disease prevention such as losing weight, avoiding smoking, and lowering cholesterol.
Daily meditation has long been used for reducing stress and improving well-being in general. With this study from the AHA, we are one step closer to having conclusive proof of what has long been speculated about meditation’s ability to improve our daily lives and the health of our bodies.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Does meditation for heart health prevent heart disease?
A recent review by the American Heart Association suggests that meditation for heart health may alleviate common risk factors associated with heart disease. These risk factors include stress, high blood pressure, and more. Meditation has long been touted as part of a healthy lifestyle, and science appears to concur.