Regular meditation has been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in teenagers, according to researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University.
Dr. Vernon Barnes, Dr. Gaston Kapuku and Dr. Frank Treiber from the institute studied 62 black teens with high blood pressure, finding that those who meditated twice a day for 15 minutes each time had lower left ventricular mass, an indicator of future cardiovascular disease, than a control group.
Half of the teenage group were trained in transcendental meditation and asked to meditate for 15 minutes with a class and 15 minutes at home for a four-month period. The control group didn’t meditate, but were exposed to health education on how to lower blood pressure.
The researchers measured left ventricular mass with two-dimensional echocardiograms before and after the study and the group that meditated showed a significant decrease.
"Increased mass of the heart muscle's left ventricle is caused by the extra workload on the heart with higher blood pressure," Mr Barnes explained. "Some of these teens already had higher measures of left ventricular mass because of their elevated blood pressure, which they are likely to maintain into adulthood."
Meditation is similar to a period of deep rest, which means the activity of the sympathetic nervous system decreases and the body releases fewer-than-normal stress hormones. Therefore, the vasculature relaxes, blood pressure drops and the heart doesn’t work as much.
Mr Barnes explained: "Transcendental meditation results in a rest for the body that is often deeper than sleep.
"Statistics indicate that one in every ten black youths have high blood pressure. If practiced over time, the meditation may reduce the risk of these teens developing cardiovascular disease, in addition to other added health benefits."
The study is part of several research goals and initiatives that have been conducted by scientists at Georgia Health Sciences University. The institute hopes to improve health, reduce health disparities and prevent injury and illness in Georgia through research, service, leadership and training.