New research suggests that Transcendental Meditation (TM) may provide African-Americans with high blood pressure a non-drug treatment to reduce left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). LVH is abnormal enlargement of the heart and is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, doubling the risk of heart attacks, arrhythmias, stroke, heart failure, and death.
In a randomized controlled study, researchers found that the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique helps to LVH compared to health education controls. The study appears in the journal Ethnicity & Disease.
Despite significant advances, cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. Significantly, heart disease death rates are higher in African-Americans than in whites, in part because their rate of LVH is double that of whites.
The disproportionately high rates may be associated with the burden of psychosocial stress. A recent scientific statement from the American Heart Association emphasized the potential for stress-reduction methods to prevent heart disease and premature mortality in African Americans.
The new trial included 85 African-Americans with high blood pressure who were randomly assigned to Transcendental Meditation or to a health education control group, in addition to usual medical care.
This study tested the effects of stress-reducing meditation to prevent LVH in this high-risk population. Researchers found that stress reduction with TM practice prevented heart enlargement in hypertensive African-American patients.
After six months, the control group showed nearly 10 percent progression of abnormal heart enlargement while the TM group maintained their baseline level of heart size.
The findings of this study suggest that TM practice is an effective nondrug method for preventing heart enlargement in African -American hypertensives who are especially at high risk of developing associated CVD.
“This is a form of heart disease where nondrug treatments are relatively understudied,” said Professor Robert Schneider, M.D., F.A.C.C., first author. “Since the physiology of stress contributes to cardiac enlargement, we hypothesized that managing one’s mind-body connection with Transcendental Meditation might prevent the disease process.”
New technology in the form of echocardiography was used in the study to detect changes in the heart muscle. The technique is a noninvasive diagnostic test that uses ultrasound waves to create an image of the heart muscle. Ultrasound waves that rebound or echo off the heart can show the size, shape, and movement of the heart’s valves and chambers as well as the flow of blood through the heart; it is used to detect heart chamber or wall enlargement known as hypertrophy.
Echocardiography was issued at the start of the study to both TM and HE groups. After six months of practice, repeat testing with echocardiography found that the HE control group progressed on cardiac enlargement while the TM group showed prevention of enlargement. There was a significant change in left ventricle mass index (LVMI) between the groups after the six-month intervention.
“By preventing left ventricle mass index progression in the present study, TM may reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality associated with LVH,” said Dr. Komal Marwaha, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Health at Maharishi International University.
Devereux reported that every 23.5 gm/m2 increase in LVMI, increases the risk of cardiovascular mortality by 38 percent and all-cause mortality by 28 percent. Based on these findings, patients randomized to TM in the current study would have an 11 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality and 8 percent reduced the risk of all-cause mortality compared with the control group.
Schneider, dean of MIU’s College of Integrative Medicine, said these reductions are significant. “These results suggest that an effective technique for stress reduction may prevent the progression of left ventricular hypertrophy and thereby help to prevent premature heart disease and cardiac mortality.”
Keith Norris, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine at UCLA, and one of the study’s co-authors, added, “We hope these findings will lead to more investigations into nondrug interventions for the prevention and early intervention of heart disease that are sorely needed given the high cost of health care in our nation and the impact of health care cost on low income and disproportionately minority communities.”