The TM Program, Reduction of Stress, and Heart Health
The Magnitude of the Problem
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, heart disease is the number one cause of death among women in the United States. Cardiovascular disease causes the death of more women than the other top four causes of fatality combined. Sixty-four percent of women who die from heart attacks have no previous symptoms. While many factors, such as diet, physical activity, and genetics contribute to the onset of heart disease in women, stress plays a significant role.
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2008 Stress in America survey, women report experiencing high levels of stress—and 33% of women report an average stress level of at least 8 on a 10-point scale
“The link between high levels of stress and heart disease is well-known and very real,” says Katherine Nordal, PhD, executive director for professional practice at the American Psychological Association. “The good news is that by being proactive in their healthcare decisions and making healthy lifestyle choices women can successfully manage their levels of stress and minimize their risk of heart disease.”
As reported by WebMD Health News, treating symptoms of heart disease in the average woman may add up to more than $1 million over the course of her lifetime. That estimate include the cost of medical care, indirect costs (such as lost hours from work), and out-of-pocket costs for drugs, medical devices, and alternative therapies.
The Transcendental Meditation Technique: A Scientifically Verified Solution
Prevention and Reversal of Atherosclerosis
Research has shown that chronic stress contributes to the development and progression of atherosclerosis. The effects of chronic stress are mediated by stress hormones such as cortisol and by the sympathetic nervous system, which releases adrenaline and noradrenalin.
Research on the Transcendental Meditation program has shown that it deceases most of the major risk factors for atherosclerosis —psychological stress, high blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, oxidized lipids, and insulin resistance. At the level of neurohormones, there are reductions in stress hormones and sympathetic nervous system disorders. The neuroendocrine and cardiovascular changes are likely the result of greater orderliness and balance in the central nervous system.
Besides reduction in cardiovascular risk factors, research has shown reductions in narrowing of the arteries (regression of atherosclerosis), reduced hypertrophy of the heart (left ventricular hypertrophy), and reductions in mortality from heart disease and other causes. Practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique leads to greater heart health.
Congestive heart failure
Heart failure is the end result of many forms of heart disease, such as coronary heart disease or hypertensive heart disease . It kills 300,000 people a year in the United States.
Congestive heart failure is very difficult to treat with drugs or even with surgical intervention. However, research on the Transcendental Meditation technique, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, has demonstrated that individuals who are taking conventional treatments for heart failure, and who have added twenty minutes twice a day of Transcendental Meditation practice to their routine, showed significant improvements in measures of heart failure.
High Blood pressure
The National Institutes of Health has funded over $24 million of studies showing that the TM technique significantly reduces high blood pressure.
Stress has been implicated in the development of hypertension. This has been documented through epidemiological blood pressure studies; naturalistic studies of the relationship among blood pressure, psychology, and everyday life events; and experimental studies of cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to behavioral stimuli.
The mind and body are intimately connected. The subjective experience of the Transcendental Meditation technique is one of mental relaxation and peacefulness combined with inner wakefulness. The mental relaxation elicits physiological relaxation; that is, when the mind settles down, the body gains deep rest.
Chronic environmental and psychosocial stress contribute to an increase in acute stress-induced sympathetic nervous system arousal, resulting in imbalance in the nervous system biochemistry. Such changes result in an exaggerated response to stress, as evidenced by constriction of the blood vessels and increased blood pressure levels.
Stress reduction from the Transcendental Meditation practice impacts the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in reduced blood pressure reactivity to acute stress. Over time, due to decreased cardiovascular reactivity to acute events, there is reduced load upon the heart, resulting in decreased blood pressure levels, thereby helping to prevent early onset of hypertension. The benefits can be immediate, but in most cases, the research has shown that within 1-2 months there is a significant drop in blood pressure if it has been too high.
The self-perpetuating cycle that would contribute to the pathogenesis of hypertension is broken by Transcendental Meditation practice—which normalizes alterations in blood vessel and heart muscle function—thus leading to decreases in resting peripheral blood vessel constriction and decreases in blood pressure. These decreases in peripheral blood vessel constriction and blood pressure lead to further decreases in heart muscle mass and blood pressure-stress reactivity.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, studies among people with heart disease have shown that lowering high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure can reduce the risk of dying of heart disease, of having a nonfatal heart attack, and of needing heart bypass surgery or angioplasty. Studies among people without heart disease have shown that lowering high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique reduces both high cholesterol and high blood pressure. In summary, the regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique significantly reduces the risk factors for cardiovascular disease.