Sharon Ufberg, DC discusses the importance of heart health and suggests meditation as a method of lowering risk for heart attack.

by Sharon Ufberg, DC

Cheerios brand cereal has chosen to coin “Heart Healthy” as its advertising slogan and proudly announces that it is the only cold cereal that is clinically proven to lower cholesterol: “..when it comes to doing something really important for your body, there is no better place to start than with your heart. Let Cheerios help you tackle your cholesterol by making heart healthy oats part of your diet.”

That sounds like an easy enough solution. But for most people, grabbing a bowl of cereal every morning is not going to answer all of their heart health needs. Fortunately, there are a few other options to increase heart health and reduce the risk of a cardiovascular incident.
Remember, heart disease is the number one health risk to women in the United States. And we all know the risk factors for men and women: obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and a sedentary lifestyle. Post menopausal women, over age 55, with a family history of heart disease have an increased risk of developing heart disease and African American women comprise an even higher risk group.

Those of us in the integrative healthcare community will not be surprised to hear that recent studies have confirmed that a continuous meditation practice may lower the risk of heart attack and stroke in people suffering from coronary heart disease by as much as 50 percent.

Transcendental meditation (TM) has been reported as an effective alternative to drugs for lowering blood pressure since the 1970’s—even for those individuals who continued to smoke and make poor dietary choices. These studies are perfect examples of how one consistent lifestyle intervention may reduce risk and increase wellness in people, even those with significant cardiovascular disease.

Patients should be encouraged to include meditation in their daily health and wellness rituals. Often the myths surrounding meditation need to be dispelled. The notion that meditation is connected to religious beliefs or a particularly uncomfortable posture is a common misconception.  Explain the benefits of a mind-body practice and remind your patients there is much to be gained from only 15-20 minutes of sitting quietly and comfortably every day. The positive effects can be felt almost immediately and only increase over time. Offering an easy-to- follow guided meditation as a sample is usually all that patients need to begin a simple daily meditation practice. Meditation is a personal experience that has no right or wrong method. What is most important is having the patient select a practice that they believe they can follow.

Your patients may choose from many types of meditation—focusing on breathe, intention or a specific named meditation practice such as Zen, Transcendental, or Mindfulness. Any of these approaches to deep reflection play a significant role in the healing process.
As we know, empowering the patient to actively take a role in improving their heart health through a meditation practice will not only benefit their cardiovascular health but also enhance their overall well being.

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