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'It can't be helped' lifesaver
by Rowan Hooper
Japan Times Translate This Article
9 June 2005
On 9 June 2005 Japan Times reported:
Biologist Rowan Hooper believes that Japan's culture of 'shikata ga nai' (it cannot be helped), is at the root of the extraordinary longevity that the country enjoys (more than 1 million citizens aged 90 or over). Hooper linked his claim to recent research on the Transcendental Meditation Programme (TM) showing that seniors in the US who practised TM enjoyed a longer lifespan than those not practising the technique.
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Rowan said, 'Sure, TM is not the same as latent Buddhism, and repetitive chanting is hardly the same as saying 'shikata ga nai' in the face of setbacks—but it's in the same ballpark.'
He went on to discuss details of the studies on TM, which tracked 202 seniors with mildly elevated blood pressure and who were taught various forms of relaxation techniques. Those in the TM group had a 23 per cent reduction in the rate of death from all causes. This included a 30 per cent reduction in the rate of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 49 per cent reduction in the rate of death from cancer.
He also quoted Dr Robert Schneider, author and lead researcher on the study, as saying, 'The Transcendental Meditation programme reduces risk factors in heart disease and other chronic disorders, such as high blood pressure, smoking, psychological stress, stress hormones, harmful cholesterol and atherosclerosis. These reductions slow the aging process and promote the long-term reductions in death rates.'
He also referred to two other studies on the popular mental technique. The first, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, in 2000, that showed that TM could help reduce atherosclerosis and the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The second was a study conducted at the Medical College of Georgia that showed that TM helped black adolescents with high blood pressure improve the ability of their blood vessels to relax.
Coming back to his original hypothisis, Hooper said the research on TM supported his belief that 'shikata ga nai' probably has a positive effect on blood pressure and stress hormones, and so is a good thing. . .for a healthy lifespan and a positive sense of wellbeing. . .'
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