Meditation is emerging as a powerful stress-buster. Research shows that it can have health benefits equivalent to or better than some of the leading medications for reducing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Dr. Oz, a meditator himself, talks about how the Transcendental Meditation technique reduces the three main risk factors for heart disease.
"As a heart surgeon, I see the effects of stress on the heart as the leading cause of death in the Western world. This meditation, we believe, can help a lot of people. It's important to understand exactly how TM reduces stress and stress-related disorders."
Stating that high cholesterol is the first major risk factor for heart disease, Dr. Oz cited a one-year study on people with high cholesterol who practiced the TM technique. The study found that cholesterol was reduced by 10 percent, or 30 milliliters. "Now, if you are on medication for cholesterol, we hope you can get 30 milliliters lower," he said.
The second risk factor for heart disease, cautioned Dr. Oz, is high insulin or diabetes. "A randomized clinical trial funded by the NIH found improvements in insulin resistance, glucose and even insulin levels themselves, after just four months of TM practice, in over 100 people who had coronary blocks. This dramatic change was significantly better than just teaching people about their health."
Meditation also helps reduce hypertension -- the third main risk factor -- according to a randomized control study on people suffering from high blood pressure. "Those practicing the TM technique had a significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, of 11 and 6, respectively. Those are big numbers. We don't get these kind of results all the time with medications."
The outcome of a long-term randomized trial on patients with coronary heart disease showed similar promise. Those practicing the TM technique during this 10-year period were found to have 47 percent less incidence of mortality, heart disease and stroke. "This impact in the TM group is stunning -- unimaginable. When you talk about these causes of death and you can reduce them by that much, as well as non-fatal strokes and non-fatal heart attacks, these are spectacularly large impacts."
If we're under stress, it's even harder -- we're more likely to overeat and find ourselves less motivated to exercise and more susceptible to smoking, drinking and other addictive behaviors. Meditation adds a powerful engine to your health resolutions. What's more, it's easy!