If you’ve ever wanted to start a meditation practice, but haven’t worked up the motivation, here’s another reason to give it a go: a study found that both Transcendental Meditation—a form of meditation using mantras—and lifestyle modifications can help lower blood pressure and contribute to DNA changes associated with better health. Published in PLOS ONE, the study included 48 African-Americans with high blood pressure. Because African-Americans tend to have disproportionately high rates of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, researchers were interested in ways to address these health concerns. The participants were divided into two groups: one group learned Transcendental Meditation and received a basic health education course; the other group participated in an extensive health education program aimed at encouraging major lifestyle changes such as losing weight, reducing alcohol intake, and increasing physical activity. Here is what researchers observed after 16 weeks:
At the cellular level, both groups experienced significant increases in the expression of two genes that lengthen telomeres. Telomeres are repeating strings of DNA at the end of chromosomes that help protect the chromosome—and the DNA it contains—from deterioration. Longer telomeres have been associated with various markers of healthier aging, while shorter telomeres have been associated with several chronic diseases.
There were no significant differences between the groups when it came to telomere gene expression.
Both groups experienced a drop in systolic blood pressure.
Only the lifestyle-modification group experienced a significant drop in diastolic blood pressure.
The findings are exciting as they indicate a link between stress reduction techniques and changes at the cellular level. They also suggest promising and noninvasive ways people can lower their blood pressure and improve their overall health, either through meditation, lifestyle changes, or both.
Source: PLOS ONE