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Can an act as simple as engaging in transcendental meditation, or TM, improve your heart health and help prevent premature death due to heart-related factors? This is the question that researchers at the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management sought to answer in a nine year study.
Led by Robert Schneider, M.D., FACC, researchers followed a group of 201 African-Americans. Participants included both men and women, with an average age of 59. All participants were considered at high risk for heart disease having received a previous heart related diagnosis, including narrowing of the arteries. In addition to medications for their condition, half of the participants were provided traditional health education regarding heart disease prevention. Education included factors such as lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise. The remaining participants received tuition for TM training and were encouraged to practice TM on a daily basis.
At the end of the study, researchers found that participants who practiced TM for as little as 20 minutes a day cut their risk of heart attack, stroke, and death by almost 50 percent. Participants who practiced TM on a daily basis without skipping any TM sessions enjoyed the greatest benefit with a 66 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack, death, or stroke. Researchers also reported an improvement in blood pressure levels in participants practicing TM. In addition, the majority of participants practicing TM - 64 percent - reported an improvement in stress levels.
According to the Maharishi Foundation, transcendental meditation, commonly referred to as TM, is thousands of years old. With roots based in India, TM is part of the Verdic “tradition of enlightenment” that enables the practitioner to reach a state of “pure consciousness” or “inner wakefulness.” TM practitioners believe that TM has numerous health benefits such as improving brain function, increasing intelligence, enhancing creativity, dilating blood vessels, reducing stress, anxiety and depression, and enhancing creativity. Estimates are that more than five million people practice TM.