Meditation, a mind-body practice shown to promote relaxation, shows promise as a means of keeping your blood pressure in check. Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of blood against the walls of your arteries and can become elevated due to a number of factors (such as age-related narrowing of the arteries, underlying medical problems, and excessive sodium intake). By using meditation to manage your blood pressure, you may be able to boost your defense against heart disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.
How Might Meditation Lower Blood Pressure?
While researchers have yet to determine how meditation might lower blood pressure, it's thought that the practice may affect activity in the autonomic nervous system (which regulates blood pressure). Meditation appears to calm activity in the sympathetic nervous system (known to narrow the blood vessels in response to stress) and increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (known to promote widening of the blood vessels).
The Science Behind Meditation and Blood Pressure
Transcendental meditation (a type of meditation that involves silently repeating a word, sound, or phrase in order to stop distracting thoughts from entering the mind) may be effective for controlling blood pressure, according to a 2008 analysis of nine clinical trials. Investigators concluded that practicing transcendental meditation may have the potential to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by approximately 4.7 and 3.2 mm Hg, respectively. (Systolic blood pressure is the top number on a blood pressure reading; diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number.)
It should be noted that an earlier research review (published in 2004) sized up five clinical trials and found a lack of good-quality studies to support the use of transcendental meditation for management of blood pressure.
Should You Use Meditation to Lower Your Blood Pressure?
Since scientists have yet to prove that meditation can significantly lower your blood pressure, it's important not to rely solely on meditation as a means of keeping your blood pressure in check. In order to achieve and maintain normal blood pressure levels, you should follow a healthy diet, limit your intake of sodium and alcohol, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid smoking. If you're interested in using meditation to manage high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about adding meditation to your treatment program.
Anderson JW, Liu C, Kryscio RJ. "Blood pressure response to transcendental meditation: a meta-analysis." Am J Hypertens. 2008 21(3):310-6.
Canter PH, Ernst E. "Insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not Transcendental Meditation decreases blood pressure: results of a systematic review of randomized clinical trials." J Hypertens. 2004 22(11):2049-54.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. "Meditation: An Introduction". NCCAM Publication No. D308. Created February 2006. Updated June 2010.
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. "Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure".