Learning to Relax

Learning to Relax

Learning to relax and reduce stress through the practice of Transcendental Meditation (TM) may reduce atherosclerosis - and risk of heart attack and stroke - according to findings published in the March 2000 issue of the American Heart Association journal STROKE.

This is the first controlled study to suggest that stress reduction by itself can reduce atherosclerosis without changes in diet and exercise, according to a team of researchers from UCLA, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles, and Maharishi University of Management College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine in Fairfield, Iowa.

"This finding that the disease process in the arteries can be reduced through the TM program may have vast implications for the current management of cardiovascular disease and health care costs," says Amparo Castillo-Richmond, M.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine.

In the study, hypertensive African-Americans who were at risk for cardiovascular disease were randomly assigned to either the TM program or to a health education control group. Sixty men and women volunteers completed pretests and post-tests over an average intervention period of about seven months. Subjects practicing the TM program showed an approximate 11 percent decrease in risk of heart attack and a 7-15 percent reduction in risk of stroke. These reductions are comparable to those achieved by lipid-lowering medications or intensive lifestyle modification programs.

Robert Schneider, M.D., another author of the study and director of the NIH-sponsored Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine, says, "Cardiovascular disease is associated with psychological stress. Previous research has found that the TM program decreases coronary heart disease risk factors, including hypertension, oxidized lipids, stress hormones and psychological stress, and is associated with reduced cardiovascular disease and death in African-Americans and the general population."

"Taken together, these and other findings suggest that the distinct state of 'restful alertness' experienced during the TM technique may be triggering self-repair homeostatic mechanisms in the body, which lead to the regression of atherosclerosis," says Schneider.

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