AHA-2I’ll never forget Maggie, one of the first women I taught to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. As a young TM teacher in the 1970s, I was feeling less stressed and happier with daily meditation, yet the dramatic improvements in other people sometimes startled me. Maggie tearfully told me in the interview before instruction that she suffered from such high blood pressure that her life was in danger, and she was so nervous and restless she could barely sit still. Her husband had recommended that she start TM, since research indicated it could lower stress. Within one month of practice, her face looked completely different. All smiles, she told me that her doctor had already reduced her medication. Better yet, the stress reduction she experienced as a result of meditating was helping her emotionally, socially and on the job—a positive effect that went far beyond what medication could provide.

Since the 1970s, hypertension has become a prominent women’s issue, especially as we age. By the time you are 60, half of the women your age will have hypertension, and by age 75, hypertension will affect 80 percent of your female peers. In fact, hypertension is the most common condition for which women seek medical treatment, reports the Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

While hypertension can be effectively treated with medication, many women today are reluctant to take pharmaceuticals due to the harmful side effects. Other women, like Maggie, are looking for lifestyle changes that will reduce the stress that is the cause of hypertension in the first place.

Luckily, doctors are now recommending a way to treat hypertension that is effective in reducing stress and at the same time is free of harmful side effects. On April 22, 2013, the American Heart Association released a statement recommending that doctors adopt the Transcendental Meditation technique for the prevention and treatment for hypertension, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

The purpose of the report originally published in the journal Hypertension, entitled “Beyond Medications and Diet — Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association,” is to inform physicians which alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure have been shown by research to be effective.

After considering meta-analyses and the latest clinical trials on different types of meditation, the report stated that while Transcendental Meditation is recommended to lower BP, there is not enough scientific evidence to recommend other meditation or relaxation techniques.

Robert-Schneider“This is an important breakthrough in the evolution of medical practice, since it is the first time that the Transcendental Meditation technique has been recognized and recommended for consideration by a national medical organization that provides professional practice guidelines to physicians, health care payers, and policymakers,” said Robert Schneider, MD, FACC, director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention who has been the principal investigator for several research studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique and cardiovascular disease. “This type of guideline statement has been what health insurance companies have been requesting for many years.”

Part of the impetus for this statement from the AHA came from the patients themselves, who are sometimes reluctant to take medication. “A common request from patients is, ‘I don’t like to take medications, what can I do to lower my blood pressure?’ said Robert Brook, M.D., chair of the expert panel that authored the report. “We wanted to provide some direction.”

The report also recognized that Transcendental Meditation is generally considered safe and without harmful side effects. As an additional advantage, the statement noted that many of the reviewed alternative therapies, such as meditation, may provide a range of health or psychological benefits beyond BP lowering or cardiovascular risk reduction.

For example, recent research funded by the NIH shows that African-Americans who regularly practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique lowered their risk of death, heart attack and stroke by 48%. That’s an amazing statistic—a result far greater than what any medication can provide. And, as Maggie found, regular practice of the TM technique can improve many other areas of your life as well.

Linda Egenes is a health writer, blogger and author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for the Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, July 1 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

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