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Mindful medicine: Hypertension, African Americans and meditation
by Deborah Gardiner
Savvy Health Translate This Article
Palo Alto, California, United States
28 August 2004
On 28 August 2004 Savvy Health reported:
Recent studies show that the practice of Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation Programme can drastically reduce high blood pressure.
It is a joy for Global Good News service to feature this news, which indicates the success of the life-supporting programmes Maharishi has designed to bring
fulfilment to the field of health.
African Americans—the highest risk group for hypertension— are getting unexpectedly good results from practising the TM Technique.
A retired mechanic, Alan Mackentire is 62 yrs old and often works as a volunteer with his church. 'I began practising TM six months ago when I found that I had a blockage in my heart,' said Mackentire. 'My doctor told me to relax more and suggested I try meditation.' Mackentire found the idea of TM to be odd. 'I thought he was crazy—I am a very active person. For me to stop twice a day for twenty minutes did not make a lot of sense.'
However, Mackentire's doctor knew what he was talking about. In just six months, TM and a change of diet helped reduce Mackentire's weight and stress levels dramatically. 'I dieted a little, lost weight, and started relaxing with the TM. ... Now I have no chest pain, nothing. As soon as I started relaxing it started going well.'
It is no surprise that TM can reduce stress. Over 500 studies since 1970 have indicated that the 20 minutes, twice daily, TM practice can reduce hypertension and also correct many diseases, according to John Black, a TM instructor in Palo Alto, California.
One study has significant implications for African Americans. Published in the March issue of the American Heart Association journal, Stroke, this study showed that 'using TM as a means of stress reduction by itself or in conjunction with medication can reduce arteriosclerosis without changes in diet and exercise'.
The study was conducted at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles and looked at 60 African American men and women with hypertension. With the practice of TM, they found a decrease of 0.098 mm in the thickness of blood vessel walls. Participants in the non-TM control group displayed an increase of 0.054mm. Thickening of the blood vessel walls is a known risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
This is important because African Americans have a 40% greater rate of hypertension compared to whites, as pointed out by Dr Robert Schneider MD, director of the Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa. Dr Schneider said, 'One of the suggested reasons is the higher rate of psychological and social stress in African Americans due to perceived isolation, socio-economical strains and other chronic burdens.'
Doctors value the results of the research, they feel it brings a useful self- help treatment to a group which traditionally may not have good access to health care. Often, due to higher poverty levels, they are not as likely to have regular medical check-ups for hypertension.
The question arises, does the Transcendental Meditation really make a difference, and do people continue to practice?
Linda Logen was involved in the recent research in Los Angeles and found that TM fully lowered her hypertension. 'Before, when I was hypertensive, I was depressed and very tired,' said Logen, a religious science minister. 'TM makes me feel more relaxed, it's just a sense of calm. TM does seem to affect blood flow and heart beat, so my energy level has gone up considerably.'
Mackentire finds TM to be mind and body changing as well, 'Because TM reduces stress, you see things better. You don't get mad—you don't get upset with people about anything,' he said.
In addition, TM is simple to learn and maintain. As Logen explains,'TM is something that you can do anywhere, not just in a quiet place—anywhere that you feel you need to be calmed.'
Further explanation comes from John Black. A TM instructor for 30 years, Black is completely sold on how life-changing TM can be. 'In TM we learn how to let the mind quiet down. When the mind quiets down, the body quiets down spontaneously. Having a state of rest--much deeper than that person has had in their life--allows the body to dissolve deep-rooted and long accumulated stress that is the cause of all health problems, ' Black said.
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