I’ve spent about 7yrs of my career assisting with heart surgery including heart transplants. So, I’ve seen a lot of heart disease along with the trauma and hardship it can cause for people. But did you know various types of meditation could reduce your risk of heart disease and in some cases help treat it?!
In a small year-long randomized controlled study which looked at people with impaired blood flow through the coronary arteries (Ischemic heart disease) participants received guided imagery-based meditation or counseling. The participants who received “guided meditation” also referred to as guided imagery/visualization were guided to visualize their heart damage being repaired. Whereas, the counseling participants focused on reducing stressors specific to the individual. The study measured: mental well-being, emotional health, degree of chest pain, and exercise tolerance. The guided meditation groups results were described as potent and long lasting and ranged from +934% improvement at 3mos to +577% at 12mos. Conversely, the counseling group’s results were described as weak and temporary with an initial peak of +103% at 3mos and ending the year at 34%. What really struck me was 6 patients in the meditation group left the bypass surgery waiting list, and all meditators either had their heart meds greatly reduced or eliminated altogether! Some of the participants were in such grave condition they were on the heart transplant waiting list, yet none of the meditators died. Sadly, 6 patients from the counseling group died from cardiac related events.
In a 5-yr randomized controlled study involving 201 African American men and women with coronary heart disease participants were asked to either (a) take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or (b) take a class on transcendental meditation (a type of mantra-based meditation). Researchers followed up with participants for the next five years and found that those who took the meditation class had reductions in blood pressure and psychological stressors (notably anger) which translated into a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke and death!
Not only does meditation help your physical heart, it can help your emotional heart as well. For instance, loving kindness meditation can increase positive feelings of love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, and hope to name a few.
While decreasing bias towards other, self-criticism, increasing empathy, compassion, and helpfulness. Essentially it makes you more loving to others as well you yourself thus it’s aptly named. For me, these feelings make my heart happy and might make yours happy too J.
If you want to give loving kindness meditation a try here is a YouTube link to one by Emma Seppälä, Ph.D, Research Scientist at Stanford University and the Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University.