If you’re already aware you have high blood pressure – perhaps from a doctor’s visit or a self-testing monitor – than you have the power to change that. One ancient practice could help.
Based at the Medical University of South Carolina, America, researchers conducted a 12-month experiment.
They enrolled 30 volunteers who had stage one hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure).
An average systolic blood pressure reading of this group – where each person had their blood pressure measured on three different occasions – was 132.6mmHg.
To put this reading into perspective, the NHS outlines the blood pressure reading scale.
An ideal blood pressure range falls between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, whereas high blood pressure is considered to be between 140/90mmHg or higher.
This cements the notion that the volunteers were in a pre-hypertension range.
The participants were not taking medication for the condition, as lifestyle modifications tend to be the first line of treatment.
Chronic stress was recognised as a “risk factor for hypertension and cardiovascular disease”.
To help combat this trigger, the respondents were asked to start a breathing meditation app on their smart phones.
The meditation app captured real-time heart rate from a user’s fingertip placed over a video camera lens during sessions.
After each session, users received “immediate feedback graphs showing their heart rate changes”.
They also received “motivational and social reinforcement text messages the following day, based upon levels of adherence”.
Participants were requested to do up to 15 minutes of meditation twice a day.
Alternatively some group members were asked to engage in walking, for the same amount of time, in place of meditation.
When the researchers measured blood pressure readings, both resting diastolic and systolic blood pressure readings had reduced compared to the start of the trial.
However, from month three, the meditation group showed significantly more reductions in blood pressure.
To illustrate, at month three, the meditation group saw a reduction of -8.0 in blood pressure readings whereas the walking group saw a reduction of -1.9.
By month six, the meditation group had a reduction of -10.0 while the walking group had a reduction of -0.7.
Then, by month 12, this trend continued, with the meditation group showing a reduction of blood pressure readings by -11.6.
The walking group, on the other hand, had a small reduction of -0.4 in blood pressure readings.
From this revealing data, the scientists concluded that meditation was “beneficial in reducing systolic blood pressure levels”.
This held true for adults who had been diagnosed with stage one hypertension.
The researchers added that the meditation app may be a “promising, scalable first-line tactic for stage one hypertension”.
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