How Mindfulness Meditation Offers Hope For Individuals With Heart Disease

New study shows the link between mindfulness meditation and cardiovascular reactivity

New study shows the link between mindfulness meditation and cardiovascular reactivity

The popularity of mindfulness mediation as a psychological-health intervention is ever increasing. Based on buddhist meditation practices it is adopted as a tool in western societies.

In its simplest form the practice of mindfulness meditation offers the individual opportunity to focus on the present moment in an accepting and nonjudgmental manner.

Researchers from the Brigham Young University, USA examined how a brief mindfulness exercise would impact on cardiovascular reactivity.

Cardiovascular reactivity to stress during brief laboratory stressors is related to health outcomes over time.

The researchers aimed to examine cardiovascular reactivity as it can be a sign of heart disease as well as other cardiovascular problems:

High cardiovascular reactivity to stress and less recovery post-stress predict increased cardiovascular disease risk, including increased carotid intima-media thickness and increased risk for developing hypertension

The study used a randomised experimental design and specifically addressed three questions:

  1. Will engaging in a single-session, brief mindfulness exercise result in reduced blood pressure and heart rate relative to a control group?
  2. Will a brief mindfulness exercise reduce cardiovascular reactivity to the PASAT laboratory stressor?
  3. Will a brief mindfulness exercise increase cardiovascular recovery post-stressor?

With the exception of the mindfulness exercise the experimental group and the control group completed the same procedures throughout the research.

All participants provided baseline blood pressure and heart rate values then either took part in the mindfulness exercise of the control exercise.

Participants in the mindfulness group were given basic standardised mindfulness instructions such as understanding the importance of focusing on the present moment in an open and nonjudgmental way, these participants then listened to mindfulness exercises from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners two-disk CD set.

The control group engaged in a passive listening exercise.

After collecting all of the data from the experiment the authors were able to draw some interesting conclusions:

We found that systolic blood pressure was significantly lower in the brief mindfulness group at the end of the mindfulness exercise

The researchers also found a difference while participants were under stress:

Those in the brief mindfulness group displayed lowered systolic blood pressure  and diastolic blood pressure during the stressor.

The authors noted the key implication of these findings:

Mindfulness meditation can have immediate positive effects for novice meditators with potential benefits for health and stress reduction and that only session may be enough to show some preliminary changes.

This is important in today’s world of single-session encounters with clients, particularly in community mental health settings.

Steffen, P., & Larson, M. (2014). A Brief Mindfulness Exercise Reduces Cardiovascular Reactivity During a Laboratory Stressor Paradigm Mindfulness DOI: 10.1007/s12671-014-0320-4