Mindfulness may effectively lower blood pressure, study finds

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Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure or hypertension, and many aren’t aware they have it, according to the American Heart Association.

High blood pressure—a consistently high force of blood flowing through blood vessels—is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 5 causes of death in the U.S., respectively.

In a study from Brown University, scientists found a customized mindfulness program that taught participants to apply those skills to have healthy relationships with their diet, physical activity, alcohol use, medication adherence and stress, leading to notably lower systolic (top number) blood pressure measures six months later.

The mindfulness program focused on training participants in skills such as attention control, self-awareness and emotion regulation, and then applied that training to health behavior change.

The team says this approach may offer a novel way to improve blood pressure control.

In this study, the researchers compared enhanced usual care (e.g., a home blood pressure monitor, blood pressure education material, facilitated access to a physician if needed) to participate in an 8-week mindfulness-based program, customized for people with elevated blood pressure.

This study included more than 200 adults who had elevated/high blood pressure, defined as greater than 120 mm Hg systolic or 80 mm Hg diastolic blood pressure.

About half of the participants were assigned to the enhanced usual care group. The remaining participants received the mindfulness program, called Mindfulness-Based Blood Pressure Reduction (MB-BP).

Those in the intervention group went to a group orientation session, eight 2.5-hour weekly group sessions and a 7.5-hour, one-day group retreat.

Recommended home mindfulness practice was at least 45 minutes a day, six days a week.

At six months, researchers found participants in the Mindfulness-Based Blood Pressure Reduction group had an average drop in systolic blood pressure of 5.9 mm Hg, compared to a 1.4 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure in the enhanced usual care group.

Those in the Mindfulness-Based Blood Pressure Reduction group also reduced sedentary sitting by an average of 351 minutes each week compared to the participants in the enhanced usual care group.

The team also found participants in the mindfulness intervention group were more likely to eat heart-healthy foods, report improved perceived stress and levels of mindfulness.

They suggest the intervention is promising as a blood pressure-lowering intervention.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about a major cause of high blood pressure, and the most used method of measuring blood pressure is often inaccurate.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies about 7 things to eat or avoid to lower your blood pressure, and results showing these high blood pressure drugs may increase heart failure risk.

The study was conducted by Eric B. Loucks et al and presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022.

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