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Meditation may lower metabolic syndrome risk

Chanting “Om” may do more than just bring you inner peace; a new study claims meditation may improve your cardiovascular health by decreasing the risk of metabolic syndrome.

A study that transcendental meditation can significantly decrease insulin resistance, lower blood pressure and decrease heart rate variability. Transcendental meditation involves sitting quietly while your mind settles into a quieter and quieter state until you are not thinking at all, or literally “transcending the thinking process.”

Dr. Robert Schneider, director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at the Maharishi University of Management in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, said that it is possible to use the mind-body connection to tap into the body’s own inner intelligence to bring about changes in physiology to reverse the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Dr. Schneider adds that the reduction in insulin resistance caused by transcendental meditation can be equal to the reduction brought about by intensive exercise or a large weight loss. The researchers recruited 103 people who had already been diagnosed with heart disease for the study, and examined the effects of transcendental meditation on heart disease risk factors. Eighty-four of the recruits completed the 16 weeks of study, who were randomized into two groups.

One group received training in and practiced transcendental meditation twice a day for 20 minutes at a time for four months, while the other group only received health education about heart disease. It was found that transcendental meditation lowered blood pressure, had positive effects on heart rate variability — a measure of heart health, and lowered the fasting blood glucose and insulin levels.

Researchers made clear however that these benefits aren’t limited to transcendental meditation but likely is the same with other forms of relaxation like yoga, tai chi, guided imagery, biofeedback and even exercise. However, researchers point out that right now, transcendental meditation is the only method that has been proven in a randomized clinical trial to have such benefits.

They further explain that meditation and other forms of relaxation have beneficial effects because they activate the parasympathetic part of the autoimmune nervous system. The body’s sympathetic system, when activated by stress, causes the body to release hormones that help make the body resistant to insulin. But when the parasympathetic system is activated, it helps the body’s cells to become more responsive to insulin.

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