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Meditation is Good for Your Heart, Study Shows

Veterans Affairs researchers looked at data of more than 61,000 survey participants.

Meditation has long been associated with improved health for a number of conditions, including mental health and heart problems.

In an attempt to seek new evidence on the less than definitive links to cardiovascular risk reduction, the authors of a new study analyzed a large national database with many participants.

In doing so, they found that meditation was linked to a reduced risk of a whole set of heart-related diseases.

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Healthy mind, healthy heart?

The researchers, led by Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, looked at data on more than 61,000 survey participants, from the National Health Interview Survey, conducted annually by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Of the 61,000 participants, nearly 10 percent (6,000) said they participated in some form of meditation.

The researchers found that the participants who meditated had lower rates of high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease, compared with those who did not meditate.

The most striking difference was in coronary artery disease. Those who meditated were almost 50 percent less likely to suffer the disease, according to the statistics. This group was also 35 percent less likely to suffer high cholesterol and 30 percent less likely to suffer from diabetes.

The researchers controlled for other factors connected to cardiovascular disease, such as age, cigarette smoking, body mass index, and gender. Despite this, the effects of meditation were still shown to be significant.

"I believe in meditation, as it can give us a sense of calm, peace, and stress reduction, leading to improvement of our emotional well-being," Krittanawong explained in a press release.

A few caveats

Krittanawong and colleagues did note a few limitations to their study. Firstly, the survey did not ask what type of meditation people were conducting. Some types of meditation might be more beneficial than others, but this was not reflected in the findings. The survey also did not include any information related to the duration of the participants' meditation practice. 

It might also be that those who practice meditation are generally more conscious of their health and that other practices in their lives account for the reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Considering all of the factors, the researchers concluded that meditation is likely associated with a lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease, but that more exhaustive research is needed. We "need a powerful study such as a clinical trial to determine whether meditation could benefit cardiovascular health in veterans," Krittanawong explained.

The study does, however, add to a growing body of research pointing to the potential benefits of meditation in reducing stress, anxiety, and improving people's health, the researchers say. 

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