Transcendental meditation helps prevent LV hypertrophy in hypertensive black patients

Black patients at a heightened risk for heart disease cut their CV mortality risk by 11% in a study that explored the cardiac benefits of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique.

The trademarked approach to meditation differs from other common methods, including mindfulness, in that it’s “designed to direct your attention inward, beyond thought, and doesn’t involve any focus or concentration,” according to the TM site. Countless clinical studies have explored the idea of meditation—and found that it can increase blood flow to the heart, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and minimize pain—but TM isn’t a traditional technique.

Robert Schneider, MD, a professor at Maharishi International University, and colleagues studied the approach in black patients, who are at a disproportionately higher risk of developing and dying from heart disease than their white counterparts. The rate of left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH), which itself multiplies a patient’s risk of heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure, is doubled in black populations.

Some researchers posit the racial gap might have something to do with the burden of psychosocial stress, a recent target of American Heart Association guidelines for preventing heart disease and premature death in black patients. Schneider and his team randomized 85 individuals with high blood pressure to either therapy with TM or traditional health education (HE), both in addition to routine medical care.

“Since the physiology of stress contributes to cardiac enlargement, we hypothesized that managing one’s mind-body connection with Transcendental Meditation might prevent the disease process,” Schneider said in a release.

According to its official site, TM involves sitting and practicing for 20 minutes at a time, twice a day. After six months, the study’s control group showed nearly 10% progression of abnormal LV enlargement, while echocardiography revealed the TM cohort had maintained their baseline heart sizes.

Based on the idea that every 23.5 gm/m2 increase in LV mass index (LVMI) corresponds to a 38% increased risk of CV mortality and a 28% increased risk of all-cause mortality, the authors reported that patients randomized to TM would experience an 11% reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality and an 8% reduced risk of all-cause mortality compared to the HE group.

“These results suggest that an effective technique for stress reduction may prevent the progression of left ventricular hypertrophy and thereby help to prevent premature heart disease and cardiac mortality,” Schneider said.

Schneider et al.'s findings were published in a recent issue of Ethnicity & Disease.