A new study, performed at Howard University Medical Center found that practicing the transcendental meditation technique seems to stimulate the production of telomerase, an enzyme associated with reduced blood pressure and heart disease. This correlates well with earlier research which  found that meditation techniques  reduce rates of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke, as well as slowing of biological aging.

Image via wikimedia

Image via wikimedia

For this pilot trial, 48 African-American men and women who were diagnosed with stage I hypertension and participated in a larger randomized controlled trial volunteered for this study at Howard University’s Medical Center. African-American subjects were chosen for this study as they suffer from disproportionately high rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease compared to other segments of the population.

They were divided into two groups; The first half attempted stress reduction thought transcendental meditation and were given either a basic health education course (the SP group). The others were assigned to a group that focused on bringing significant lifestyle changes to the participants, such as reducing salt intake, moderating alcohol, engaging in regular physical activity and reducing weight, by participating in a 16-week long extensive health education program (named the EHE group)

Both groups showed significant increases in telomerase gene expression and reductions in blood pressure.

“[This] suggests that stress reduction and lifestyle modifications may reduce blood pressure with an increase in telomerase,” said Otelio Randall, MD at Howard University College of Medicine and coauthor to the paper.

“The result is valuable new information, relevant both to cardiovascular disease and to the molecular mechanisms involved i Transcendental Meditation,” added John Fagan, professor of molecular biology at Maharishi University of Management and senior author on the study.

The authors note that “no statistically significant between-group changes were observed” either in the increase of the telomerase gene expression or reductions in systolic BP; the team also observed a significant reduction in diastolic BP in the 16-week program group, but not in the meditation group; EHE group members also showed a greater number of positive changes in lifestyle behaviors.

“The association between increased telomerase gene expression and reduced BP [blood pressure] observed in this high-risk population suggest hypotheses that telomerase gene expression may either be a biomarker for reduced BP or a mechanism by which stress reduction and lifestyle modification reduces BP,” the authors conclude.

While the study only included African-American volunteers, it’s likely that the findings apply to everyone, regardless of race. So if you’re looking for a way to stay healthy and just can’t run any more than you already do, why not take up some light meditation?

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Read more about the study here.

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