Feature Archive

Minding Heart Disease

Can meditation lower blood pressure and clear arteries?

WebMD Feature

June 5, 2000 -- Now that he's hit middle age, Lawson English is entering the heart-disease zone. Because he's overweight and only moderately active, the Tucson, Ariz., computer programmer is a prime candidate for problems. Factor in his family history of heart disease, and his odds of developing ticker trouble climb even higher.

But English says that, at the age of 44, his cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate are perfectly normal. "My blood pressure and heart rate are so low that my doctor doesn't even bother to admonish me to lose weight," he says.

He may just be lucky of course, but English attributes his good heart health to his long-time devotion to transcendental meditation (TM), a practice popularized in the 1970s by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Beatles. Twice a day, TM devotees like English find a quiet place, sit comfortably, and focus their minds on a single word, or mantra. For 15 to 45 minutes, they enter a state of conscious relaxation often described as "restful alertness."

Matters of the Heart

When English took up the practice in the 1970s, he had no idea that it might stave off heart disease. Neither did anyone else. But over the past few years, impressive evidence that TM can reduce heart disease risk factors has been published in mainstream medical journals. The latest finding, published in the March 3, 2000 issue of the American Heart Association's journal Stroke, found that African- Americans who practiced TM two times per day for seven months reduced the amount of fatty deposits in their arteries, as measured by ultrasound. The study was the first to look specifically at TM and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.