The new study, which appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Hypertension, has great relevance to South Africa, where there is widespread concern over the sharply increasing incidence of heart disease especially among the urban African population.
The meta-analysis evaluated nine randomised, controlled trials using transcendental meditation as a primary intervention for hypertensive patients. The practice of transcendental meditation was associated with approximate reductions of 4.7 mm systolic blood pressure and 3.2 mm diastolic blood pressure.
The study's lead author, Dr James W. Anderson, professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, said that blood pressure reductions of this magnitude would be expected to be accompanied by significant reductions in risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease without drug side effects. Anderson's most recent findings reinforce an earlier study published in December 2007 that found transcendental meditation produces a statistically significant reduction in high blood pressure that was not found with other forms of relaxation, meditation, biofeedback or stress management.
"Adding transcendental meditation is about equivalent to adding a second anti-hypertension agent to one's current regimen, only safer and less troublesome," Anderson said.
Having high blood pressure increases one's chances of developing heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure and kidney disease. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a department of the US Government, estimates that 1 out of 3 American adults have high blood pressure.
South African national director for transcendental meditation, Richard Peycke, said: "Medical doctors, health professionals and health authorities should be familiarising themselves with the large body of published research on the marked reductions in blood pressure through transcendental meditation, and the associated benefits for heart health".
"It has become clear that in transcendental meditation we now have a simple, safe and cost-effective method for treating these disorders - and it is available through professionally trained teachers right here in South Africa. Using transcendental meditation will improve and save countless lives, and ease the financial pressure on the country's overburdened health services." says Peycke– (Sapa)