Mindfulness Can Lower Blood Pressure, New Study Finds
In a world of stressors, it’s important we all take a moment to step back every once in a while. And if you’re part of the almost half of Americans with cardiovascular disease, new research says it might be especially important for you.
A new study by Brown University has found adopting a mindfulness practice can lead to significantly lower blood pressure.
And with heart disease as the leading cause of death around the world, with many instances resulting from hypertension, or abnormally high blood pressure, mindfulness offers a promising practice to help mitigate the effects of stress on the body and mind.
What researchers found
To study the effects of mindfulness on blood pressure, they came up with customized, nine-week long Mindfulness-Based Blood Pressure Reduction programs, and presented them to 43 people with high blood pressure. Then they checked in with those participants one year later.
The programs were a combination of mindfulness and wellness guidance, with both mindfulness training, medication reminders, and education on blood pressure.
The results indicate the programs helped considerably, with better self-regulation, lower blood pressure, and improved lifestyle changes like exercising and limiting salt and alcohol, both after the training and at the one-year follow up.
What does this matter?
When it comes to treatment of diseases, Loucks notes behavior can be a tough thing to address.
“Mindfulness may represent another approach to helping these people bring their blood pressure down,” he says, “by allowing them to understand what’s happening in their minds and bodies.”
By using the training program to aid in regulating emotions and self awareness, the participants were not only able to lower their blood pressure, but embrace healthier lifestyle changes as well.
And Loucks says even if you don’t have high blood pressure, mindfulness can serve as a preventative measure. “The hope is that if we can start mindfulness training early in life, we can promote a trajectory of healthy aging across the rest of people’s lives. That will reduce their chances of getting high blood pressure in the first place.”
Online therapy holds promise, too
Another recent study by Linköping University discovered online therapy reduced depression and improved overall quality of life in CVD patients, which is important, because depression and cardiovascular diseases can become compounding issues.
Peter Johansson, professor at the Department of Social and Welfare Studies at Linköping University says, "Our study shows that internet-based therapy can reduce depression and improve quality of life among CVD patients. Because of insufficient resources, all CVD patients don't get the required care against depression, and so internet-based therapy can play an important role."
And with so many therapy options nowadays, whether it's in person, online, or through an app, they're giving CVD patients (and everyone else) more opportunities to be mindful through opening up.
More mindfulness in our lives
Moving forward, Brown researchers want to switch up factors within the study to see if anything changes. “We would take out some of the health education, for example, and see if mindfulness training still had significant effects,” Loucks adds. “That’s certainly something we’re looking at doing in the long term. But mindfulness training is usually designed to be integrated with standard medical care.”
Luckily, there are tons of ways to incorporate mindfulness in your day, from your desk to at home with your kids, even if you think you can't. Because there’s no doubt we would all benefit from more mindfulness in our lives, and this research gives us yet another reason to slow down and check in.