The number of adults in the United States who meditate on a regular basis has doubled in the past ten years, and is estimated to total 10 million.
Thousands of studies have been published that look at meditation. Of these, about 500 have been clinical trials testing meditation for various ailments, but only about 40 trials have been long-term studies. Based on these studies, there is growing evidence that meditation, used as a mind-body medicine, is effective alone and as a complement to allopathic medicine in relieving stress, pain, and other physical and mental conditions.
Heart attack and stroke
In a study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, African-Americans with heart disease who practiced Transcendental Meditation regularly were 48% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, or to die, than those who attended a health-education class. Among the meditation group, there were 20 such occurrences, compared with 32 in the control group. The study, which ran for more than five years, involved about 200 people. It is a good idea to meditate with the purpose of maintaining cardiovascular and nervous system health.
Aging and memory
Recent research found that meditation can result in molecular changes affecting the length of telomeres, a protective covering at the end of chromosomes that gets shorter as people age. The study involved 40 family caregivers of dementia patients. Half of the participants meditated briefly on a daily basis and the other half listened to relaxing music for 12 minutes a day. The eight-week study found that people who meditated showed a 43% improvement in telomerase activity, an enzyme that regulates telomere length, compared with a 3.7% gain in the group listening to music. The participants meditating also showed improved mental and cognitive functioning and lower levels of depression compared with the control group. The pilot study was published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
Meditation is practiced widely in India, China and other Asian countries for spiritual reasons; but secular meditation is also practiced worldwide by athletes, secretaries, students, corporate executives and truck drivers to promote better concentration and higher performance levels, and by individuals seeking improved health.
It has been successfully taught to prison inmates, for example in India and New York State, to quell violent behavior and promote peaceful states of mind.
Meditation rooms can even be found in airports.
Meditation increases grey matter in the brain. A 2005 study on American men and women who meditated a mere 40 minutes a day showed that they had thicker cortical walls than non-meditators. What this meant is that their brains were aging at a slower rate. Cortical thickness is also associated with decision making, attention and memory.
High blood pressure
In 2008, Dr. Randy Zusman, a doctor at the Massachusetts General Hospital, asked patients suffering from high blood pressure to try a meditation-based relaxation program for three months. These were patients whose blood pressure had not been controlled with medication. After meditating regularly for three months, 40 of the 60 patients showed significant drops in blood pressure levels and were able to reduce some of their medication.
A study conducted by Wake Forest Baptist University found that meditation could reduce pain intensity by 40 percent and pain unpleasantness by 57 percent. Morphine and other pain-relieving drugs typically show a pain reduction of 25 percent.
Hospice patients and their families are offered meditation training. The hospice staff teach secular meditation. It is non-religious.
We recommend five minutes, twice a day, and then gradually increase. It’s basically the same way we prescribe medicine. We do not start on a high dose right away. We recommend that patients eventually work up to about 20 minutes of meditating, twice a day.
Meditation classes are also offered free of charge to the public at the office located at Pacific Hospice, 1998 N Arrowhead Ave, San Bernardino, CA 92405.
Phone 909 882 8466