BY LINDA EGENES

America has the most expensive healthcare system in the world. Researchers cite the increase in chronic disease as a major cause of escalating costs and predict a 42 percent rise in chronic disease by 2023, adding $4.2 trillion in treatment costs. The good news is that chronic disease is preventable, since many chronic conditions are linked to stress and unhealthy lifestyles.

Robert E. Herron, Ph.D., is an independent researcher, writer, speaker, and consultant in medical cost reduction and economic policy, and he is currently the director of the Center for Holistic Systems Analysis in Fairfield, Iowa. Dr. Herron’s new book, New Knowledge For New Results, presents a comprehensive strategy to reduce rising medical costs. While other researchers focus mainly on financial issues, Dr. Herron re-examines the underlying foundations of modern medicine.

Here Dr. Herron talks about our current healthcare crisis and how the Transcendental Meditation technique can help prevent chronic disease and lower costs.

Linda Egenes: As a nation, how can preventive measures help us to lower healthcare costs?

Dr. Robert Herron: To say it in one sentence, by providing preventive treatment modalities to the people who consistently incur the greatest expenses, we could leverage the greatest reductions in overall medical expenses and end up with the lowest treatment cost for everyone.

In most populations, a small fraction of people account for the majority of healthcare costs. In the U.S., for instance, the 10 percent of the population with the highest expenses incurred 60-70 percent of our total medical expenditures annually. In the Medicare population, the highest spending 5 percent incurred 43 percent of total Medicare costs, and 25 percent of seniors accounted for 85 percent of total expenses.

Research shows that high-cost people typically have chronic conditions, which are affected by excessive stress. As we know, stress degrades the immune system and other physiological systems, such as the cardiovascular system and contributes to a wide range of physical and mental disorders.

Prolonged stress also contributes to the unhealthy lifestyles that cause most chronic conditions—such as smoking, drinking, and abuse of drugs—which account for approximately 80 percent of national medical expenditures. Clearly, stress reduction will help reduce high medical costs.

Because chronic stress is a leading driver of high medical expenses, if health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid started covering the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, the most effective stress-reduction method as shown by research, it would be possible to greatly reduce skyrocketing national healthcare expenditures without cutting benefits, increasing premiums, or raising taxes.

Linda Egenes: How does the Transcendental Meditation technique reduce stress?

Dr. Robert Herron: When you meditate, your body experiences a unique state of physical and mental rest that eliminates stress and helps to balance and normalize all your bodily systems. The TM technique also makes the mind and body more resilient so you don’t accumulate excessive stress in the future. This improves health and reduces costs.

In addition to stress release, however, there are other beneficial activities that occur during the TM technique. For instance, during TM sessions many researchers have found that brain functioning is enhanced, resulting in greater brain orderliness and coherence, which also increases intelligence and creativity.

Disease is a state of disorder or imbalance in both mind and body. Because the brain controls most systems in our physiology, if we make the brain more orderly, then the entire body also becomes more orderly and healthy, including the heart. That is why the research shows that when we improve health with the TM technique, there are corresponding declines in all disease categories and medical costs.

Linda Egenes: I understand that you’ve published a number of research studies on healthcare costs. Can you talk about your research?

Dr. Robert Herron: The most recent study was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion in 2011. The results indicated that people with consistently high doctors’ bills experienced a 28 percent cumulative decrease in physician fees after an average of five years of TM practice. Even after the first year of meditation, the TM group’s physicians’ bills declined by 11 percent.

What did these findings mean? First of all, the research demonstrated that the largest and quickest reductions in medical costs could be achieved by providing the TM program to people with consistently high healthcare costs—the very people who are driving up the costs of healthcare today.

Secondly, it showed that a nonmedical intervention, the Transcendental Meditation technique, resulted in a statistically significant decline in healthcare usage that persisted for five years. In other words, with the group that practiced TM, the number of times they visited the doctor was less at the end of the five-year study than it had been at the start of the study.

This kind of decline in healthcare usage had never been shown before. Prior to this research, health economists and leaders hoped that someday the best interventions might be able to, at best, slow down the rate of increase in medical expenses.

Thus leaders in the field of healthcare had never even imagined that a decline in healthcare usage would be possible for this group of chronically ill patients. Yet because the TM technique has such a powerful health-enhancing effect, the impossible has become the common experience of people who meditate regularly.

Linda Egenes: That’s an extraordinary finding. Are there any other studies that indicate the Transcendental Meditation technique can create a decrease in healthcare utilization over a long period of time?

Dr. Robert Herron: Yes, several other studies also suggest this. For instance, a study by Dr. David Orme-Johnson, published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 1987, examined five years of health insurance data to assess the medical usage of 2,000 TM practitioners compared with controls. When compared with norms (everyone else in the health insurance plan of the same age and gender) and other groups of similar profession, the TM subjects had 50 percent lower inpatient and outpatient medical visits. This trend held across all age groups and disease categories. According to the clinically significant findings, there was 87 percent less hospitalization than norms for heart disease, and 55 percent less hospitalization than norms for cancer.

This study and others demonstrating reduced healthcare utilization through the TM technique were published in peer-reviewed journals, and over 242 additional studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals showing that the TM technique improves a wide range of mental and physical health disorders. Many of these studies were randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses.

Several randomized clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health found that the TM technique decreases high blood pressure, improves heart function, reduces cardiovascular mortality, and decreases all-cause death rates.

The body of research is strong. To me, it implies that we should make policy changes at all levels of the healthcare system to make this life-saving methodology of the TM technique available to everyone. Then we could begin to halt the epidemic of stress-related diseases that are causing unnecessary suffering and driving healthcare costs higher.

Linda Egenes: I understand that the TM technique has also been shown to be a cost-effective way to treat mental disorders such as chronic anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Robert Herron: Yes. Three research studies that evaluated the impact of TM practice on veterans who suffer from PTSD found dramatic declines in negative tendencies, as well as increases in happiness, harmony, positive attitudes, and wholesome, productive lifestyles. The numerous testimonials from these veterans indicate that the TM technique completely changed their lives and, in many cases, saved them from suicide. These early studies are now being repeated in other settings with many more veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense.

Linda Egenes: Based on your research and knowledge of the healthcare system, what would it take to get a preventive program such as the Transcendental Meditation technique widely adopted?

Dr. Robert Herron: For a preventive program such as the TM technique to become widely adopted, the federal and state governments and health insurance organizations simply need to examine the entire body of TM research that verifies its health benefits. Then, in the best interests of their constituents and consumers, they could provide full insurance coverage for starting the TM technique as soon as possible. Governments would save large amounts of money and would be able to balance their budgets more easily.

So the solution is simple: just add a TM benefit. If the TM technique were made available to the entire population, it could become a powerful means to prevent disease and enhance happiness and progress in all areas of life.

Linda Egenes is co-editor of Enlightenment: The Transcendental Meditation® Magazine. She is the author of five books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 18. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Why doctors need to talk to women about how Transcendental Meditation can help with stressAs women take on more responsibility in the workplace while continuing as the primary caregiver for their children and in many cases, their aging parents as well, stress levels in women are on the rise. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), almost half of all women (49 percent) surveyed said their stress has increased over the past five years, compared to four in 10 (39 percent) men.

And even though stress is linked with chronic disease, most Americans feel that healthcare providers are not taking enough time to address stress issues during office visits. According to the 2012 APA survey “Stress in America: Missing the Healthcare Connection,” 32 percent of the 2020 Americans surveyed felt that it was extremely important to talk with their health care providers about stress management. Yet 53 percent said that these conversations never happened.

There are exceptions, of course. Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., who is the author of Ageless Woman: Natural Health and Wisdom After Forty and has a private practice in women’s integrative and holistic medicine in Fairfield, IA, routinely discusses stress management with her patients. “When women go home from work at the end of the day, they face another set of responsibilities and stressors at home,” she says. “At times the stress can be overwhelming, and that can result in fatigue, chronic health problems, and burnout. And many of these stressors are not going away tomorrow. They’re not within your control, and the best that you can do is learn how to deal with them more effectively.”

Dr. Lonsdorf recommends the Transcendental Meditation technique to alleviate stress, because the research is solid and she has seen it work with her patients. “The TM technique offers something unique in stress management programs. It actually changes the way your nervous system processes stress. As shown in scientific research, with just four months of practice of the Transcendental Meditation program, baseline cortisol levels, meaning the amount of cortisol in the blood day-by-day, drops significantly, by one-third when compared to a control group that simply was instructed about health education or how to manage stress better.”
manage stress better.”

Dr. Norman Rosenthal, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and NIH researcher who discovered Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), saw striking results in several patients in his psychiatry practice and in family members who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique, as well as in his own personal experience. As someone who has witnessed “the mental and spiritual anguish of many hundreds of people,” he couldn’t keep quiet about a technique with so much promise to ease suffering and wrote the book Transcendence to tell people about this natural way to lessen stress without drugs or harmful side-effects.

Rosenthal and his son Josh, also a psychiatric researcher, were so impressed with the effect that the TM technique had on themselves, and the 350 research studies on TM’s health benefits—conducted at the National Institutes of Health and other major research institutes and published in major peer-reviewed journals—that they collaborated on a research study of the effect of TM on veterans with PTSD.

The study showed that veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars showed a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after just eight weeks of practicing the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique, according to a pilot study published this month in Military Medicine.

In his book Dr. Rosenthal writes, “The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 40 million adults have some form of anxiety disorder. These people feel an internal sense of their alarm bells ringing even though there is no genuine stress. They’re constantly feeling they are under some emergency. This drains their emotional and physical resources.”

Fortunately for women who suffer from extreme stress and anxiety, a 2013 meta-analysis (a type of rigorous review of multiple randomized controlled research studies, considered the gold standard of research) showed that TM had a significant effect in reducing anxiety. In fact, the greater the starting level of anxiety in the test subjects, the greater the reduction with meditation. This 2013 meta-analysis by David Orme-Johnson, Ph.D., and Vernon Barnes, Ph.D., analyzed 16 randomized controlled studies among 1295 participants and was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

“Transcendental Meditation is completely the opposite of trauma,” says veteran Tara Wise, director of the National Women Veterans Association of America (NWVAA). “As soon as I started, something shifted. I didn’t have to rehash traumatic experiences.

”The TM technique has been so successful in helping women veterans recover from PTSD that the Fatigues to Fabulous organization, which helps women vets get back on their feet, has partnered with Transcendental Meditation for Women to make it available to women vets.

With the TM technique, women can amplify their natural reserves and prevent stress from taking over. “A year ago this month I was suicidal,” Tara Weiss said. “I felt so low I wanted to just not be here.”

Now Weiss is functioning like a whole woman again. “Transcendental Meditation saved my life,” she says.

Watch video

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the 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 Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, March 24, 2014. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

banner_ptsdWomen in combat are facing enormous challenges as they return home. Reintegrating into family life, finding housing, finding a job, being a mom and figuring out how to be a civilian again can be daunting.

Yet underlying all of these seemingly disparate roles a woman plays in the world is the role of being a woman. If a woman veteran can nourish her most essential self, the subtle essence of feminine beauty, softness and pride, she has come a long way in finding her place in the world.

What is that subtle essence and how can we nourish it? For many women, taking time for themselves, some “me” time is essential to maintaining balance in a world that requires us to constantly be on and constantly giving to others on the job and at home.

Many women veterans are turning to a special kind of “me” time by practicing the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. You could think of it as setting aside twenty minutes twice a day to transcend the problems and responsibilities of your life—but it’s not an escape, it’s a proven way to rejuvenate, reactivate and restore your vital energy. A way to reset your mind, body and emotions so you can meet the challenges of life with calm, with inner strength.

In fact, research shows that this highly pleasurable, peaceful “me” time experienced by women who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique allows the body to release traumatic stress. The flashbacks, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, despair and emotional numbness to fade away.

“Transcendental Meditation is completely the opposite of trauma,” says veteran Tara Wise, director of the National Women Veterans Association of America (NWVAA). “As soon as I started, something shifted. I didn’t have to rehash traumatic experiences.”

How does the TM technique create a state that is the opposite of trauma and PTSD? When a woman practices Transcendental Meditation, her mind settles down and becomes calm, her heart rate decreases, and her body reaches a state of deep rest, allowing it to dissolve deep-rooted stresses and strain.

One research study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that the Transcendental Meditation technique is twice as effective as other self-help programs in reducing stress. Additional studies have found that TM is also twice as effective in reducing alcoholism and substance abuse than conventional approaches. In fact, there are 350 peer-reviewed studies showing improvements in everything from health to emotional balance to improved job performance with regular TM practice.

New research on active duty U.S. military personnel at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, who suffered from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), found the twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique markedly reduced symptoms of PTSD. This research, published in the July 2013 issue of Military Medicine, is the third research study to show TM’s significant benefits for those with PTSD.

These new findings follow the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Defense that it will provide a $2.4 million grant to study the effect of the TM technique on PTSD among veterans at the San Diego VA Hospital.

Having a tool to release traumatic stress is especially important for women, because there is evidence that differences in the way women process stress and emotions make women more likely to develop PTSD than men—even when exposed to similar types of trauma. Many experts believe that the epidemic of MST (military sexual trauma) is also contributing to the higher rates of PTSD in women veterans, who are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men.

“A year ago this month I was suicidal,” shared Tara Weiss at the Resilient Warriors conference sponsored by the David Lynch Foundation. “I felt so low I wanted to just not be here.” A year after starting to meditate, Weiss is back on her feet and functioning like a whole woman again. “Transcendental Meditation saved my life,” she says.

Practicing TM is a matter of letting your mind settle down to the purest form of joy, power and bliss that resides within every woman. And what better way to spend “me” time than by shutting off the cellphone, shutting the door and being with your simplest, most beautiful inner self for twenty minutes twice a day?

Hear Tara Wise talking about her experience with PTSD treatment and Transcendental Meditation here

Linda Egenes is a health writer 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 Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, October 10, 2013. Reprinted with permission.)

Overcoming PTSD
March 12, 2014

BY LINDA EGENES


Colonel Brian M Rees -MDColonel Brian M. Rees, M.D., is a member of the Medical Corps, U.S. Army Reserve, and has over 37 years of commissioned military service. A graduate of the U.S. Army War College and veteran of five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is a board-certified family physician who received his medical degree and master’s degree in public health from Tulane University. Currently Colonel Rees is the Command Surgeon for the 63rd Regional Support Command, Moffett Field, California, and a physician at the Veterans Administration clinic in San Luis Obispo, California.

Research shows that 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In this interview, Colonel Rees answers common questions he hears from military veterans wanting more information on PTSD.

Q: I came back from service in Afghanistan, and I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. Can Transcendental Meditation help me?

COL Rees: While each case is unique to the individual, available evidence would indicate that the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique could help you. Controlled studies have shown improvement in combat veterans and in civilian refugees suffering from post-traumatic stress. Many other studies have shown improvement in a host of symptoms related to PTSD.

Q: I’m on a lot of medication for PTSD. Can the Transcendental Meditation technique help me to reduce my meds?

COL Rees: While we cannot yet say that the TM technique can help reduce the amount of medication one takes for PTSD, available data show that it reduces symptoms associated with PTSD. We anticipate that as health grows and symptoms decrease, your need for medication should lessen.

photo_ptsd02Q: How does TM reduce stress? Can it really help with something as severe as PTSD? Is there any research?

COL Rees: TM is the best in the realm of relaxation and stress-busting techniques. It produces a deep, healing state of rest in the body and mind. There are literally hundreds of studies on TM from dozens of leading institutions published in peer-reviewed journals. We have evidence that TM gives a break to the part of the brain that had been “permanently switched-on” by traumatic events, thus enhancing sleep, decreasing hypervigilance, and helping restore healthy relationships.

Q: PTSD involves a huge range of symptoms. How can one technique help with so many physical, emotional, and psychological areas of dysfunction?

COL Rees: That’s an excellent question. Unlike medications or techniques that dull or mask symptoms, TM produces a deep state of rest in the body by allowing the mind to experience its own silent inner nature. This experience is healing and rejuvenating. By promoting health at this fundamental level of life, all aspects of mind and body are enlivened and supported.

Q: How can I tell whether I have PTSD or not?

COL Rees: If you’re a combat vet, your post-deployment health questionnaire should have identified whether you are suffering from PTSD or not. If you’re not sure, there are simple questionnaires available from your military branch website or from the VA. If you have any question, you should seek care.

Q: Is it only people who have been to war that experience PTSD?

COL Reese: PTSD is not limited to combat. Any traumatic stressful event, such as an assault, natural disaster, or accident, can cause PTSD symptoms. Children who witness or are victims of violence can also experience PTSD. Reducing stress and trauma through TM can help people of any age to overcome PTSD.

U.S. Department of Defense Research Project

New research on active duty U.S. military personnel at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, who suffered from the effects of post-traumatic stress, found the twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique markedly reduced symptoms of PTSD. This research, published in the July 2013 issue of Military Medicine, is the third research study to show TM’s significant benefits for those with PTSD.

More recent studies, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, found that Congolese refugees suffering from post-traumatic stress had markedly reduced symptoms within ten days of learning TM, and were non-symptomatic within 30 days.

These new findings follow the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Defense that it will provide a $2.4 million grant to study the effect of the TM technique on PTSD among veterans at the San Diego VA Hospital.

The need for evidence-based, alternative approaches for reducing PTSD is enormous, says Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School. Dr. Rosenthal co-authored a study on Afghanistan and Iraq veterans that found a 40 to 50 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms, including depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and insomnia; and reduced stress levels and quicker recovery from stress. Dr. Rosenthal also found decreased smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 15. Reprinted with permission.)