A new study found that Transcendental Meditation technique and lifestyle changes can both aid in reducing hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
The two approaches appear to stimulate genes that produce telomerase, an enzyme associated with reduced blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and mortality.
Study results are published in PLOS ONE.
“The finding that telomerase gene expression is increased, and that this is associated with a reduction in blood pressure in a high-risk population, suggests that this may be a mechanism by which stress reduction improves cardiovascular health,” said Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., coauthor of the study.
Prior research on the Transcendental Meditation technique found lower rates of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and death, as well as slowing of biological aging.
The new study examined what was happening at the level of DNA, showing that the Transcendental Meditation technique increases telomerase gene expression and suggesting that this may contribute to the cardiovascular and aging benefits.
For this pilot trial, the subjects included 48 men and women with high blood pressure who were recruited and studied at Howard University Medical Center. Half were assigned to a group that learned the Transcendental Meditation technique and received a basic health education course.
The other half were assigned to a group that focused on achieving significant lifestyle modifications such as weight reduction, reducing salt intake, engaging in regular physical activity, and moderating alcohol. They also participated in support groups and group exercises.
After 16 weeks, both groups showed significant increases in telomerase gene expression and reductions in blood pressure. There was no significant difference between the changes in the two groups. The results also showed that the lifestyle modification group made a larger number of changes in their lifestyle behaviors.
“These findings are very encouraging for prevention,” said Schneider, director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at MUM. “They show that both the Transcendental Meditation technique and active lifestyle modification can contribute to heart health.”