Patients with coronary heart disease who included transcendental meditation in their cardiac rehabilitation regime increased blood flow to the heart by more than 20% in a recent study, published in the Journal of Nuclear Cardiology.
The proof-of-concept study is the first of its kind to combine transcendental meditation with other lifestyle treatment modalities and the first to use PET to measure the effect of mind-body lifestyle modification on cardiac function, according to study co-director Dr. Robert Schneider, medical director of the Institute for Prevention Research and dean of Maharishi University of Management's College of Integrative Medicine in Fairfield, IA (Journal of Nuclear Cardiology, September 16, 2019).
The study included 56 patients and was funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York in collaboration with the Institute for Prevention Research.
The researchers randomly divided the subjects into four groups: cardiac rehabilitation, transcendental meditation, the meditation plus cardiac rehabilitation, or usual care. Of the 37 patients who completed post-testing, myocardial blood flow increased by 20.7% in the group that did both the meditation and cardiac rehabilitation. Blood flow in the group that practiced meditation alone increased by 12.8%. Cardiac rehabilitation by itself showed an improvement of 5.8%. Patients who received the usual treatment showed a 10.3% decrease in blood flow.
The researchers speculate transcendental meditation increases blood flow due to improved endothelial-mediated coronary and arteriolar vasomotor function. In other words, reduced levels of stress hormones and possibly inflammation may result in improved function of the endothelial cells that line the coronary arteries.
However, more research needs to be done with larger sample sizes to confirm the benefit, they noted.