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Lowering blood pressure with TM
by Claire Keeton

Sunday Times (South Africa)    Translate This Article
20 January 2008

Sunday Times — January 13, 2008

To reduce your stress levels, raise your consciousness with Transcendental Meditation, writes Claire Keeton

TRANSCENDENTAL Meditation, made famous by the Beatles' pilgrimage to India, is not just for rock stars or hermits. Stressed-out executives, workers and even students could benefit from it as it significantly reduces high blood pressure, a scientific study shows.

Researchers analysed the results of trials involving people with high blood pressure over a period of eight years on average and found that TM groups, compared with control groups, had:

- A 23% lower death rate from all causes in the period studied; and

- A 30% lower rate of cardiovascular disease mortality (such as heart attacks and strokes) in the period.

'Our analysis showed clinically and statistically significant changes in blood pressure among those on the TM programmes,' said one of the authors, Professor Robert Schneider of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention, supported by the US National Institutes of Health.

Other stress-reduction programmes failed to achieve the same results in lowering blood pressure.

Said Schneider : 'We wanted to see what was effective and what was not effective among the stress-reduction programmes. Non-drug therapies are recommended [as the first step in] lowering blood pressure. Drug therapy is the second line of treatment.'

The stress-reduction programmes reviewed included 'simple biofeedback, relaxation-assisted biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation and stress management training'.

In biofeedback, the person undergoing treatment is shown indicators of his or her blood pressure, pulse, skin temperature and other physiological signs in real time so that they can try to control them.

Like meditation, biofeedback is a mind-body therapy.

Education director for the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa, Shân Biesman-Simons, said: 'Many people find Transcendental Meditation a means of stress reduction and this may improve their risk profile [for cardiovascular disease].'

The foundation encourages people to follow a healthy lifestyle to help prevent and manage risk factors including hypertension.

Biesman-Simons said: 'This includes not smoking, following a healthy balanced diet, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active and managing stress.'

Hypertension, known as high blood pressure, affects about a quarter of all South Africans 15 years and older.

Schneider said: 'South Africa . . . does not only have high rates of hypertension but also of psychological and sociopolitical stress. We think it is very important to institute stress-reduction programmes and this could start in school. Every school has a programme for physical education, and it would also be good to have mind-body education to promote complete health and wellness.'

Nigel Kahn, a TM teacher based in Cape Town, said he and his colleagues would like to roll out a TM teaching programme in high schools.

'It is a simple, preventative tool against heart disease,' he said.

'TM is an effortless technique that brings deep rest for both the mind and body, which we practise for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day. The relaxation is a by-product of this deep rest.

'It is easier than other techniques of meditation as it does not involve concentration or effort. It is non-religious and requires no change in lifestyle.'

Copyright © 2008 Sunday Times

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