Mindfulness may help lower blood pressure

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A customized mindfulness program led to a significant decrease in lower systolic blood pressure after six months, according to a recent study.

The study was led by Eric Loucks, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and director of the Mindfulness Center at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Loucks presented his findings at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022. For the investigation, Loucks and his colleagues sought to understand the relationship between mindfulness programs that focused on attention control, self-awareness, and emotional regulation, and blood pressure.

Included in the clinical trial were 200 adults recruited from Providence, Rhode Island with an average age of 59. All participants had elevated/high blood pressure, defined as greater than 120 millimetres of mercery (mm Hg) systolic or 80 mm Hg diastolic blood pressure. Participants were split into two groups: one group was assigned to enhanced usual care and the other received the mindfulness program created by researchers called Mindfulness Based Blood Pressure Reduction (MB-BP).

Enhanced usual care generally involves a home blood pressure monitor, blood pressure education material as well as facilitated access to a physician if needed, according to the study. Those in the mindfulness group had eight two-and-a-half-hour weekly group sessions as well as a one-day group retreat. In addition, they were assigned 45 minutes of at home mindfulness practice, six days a week. The program was designed to help participants apply the methods of mindfulness to making healthy behavioral changes.

“Mindfulness also involves the concept of remembering, or in other words, remembering to bring one’s wisdom, wherever it was gained, such as from health care professionals or public health messages, into the present moment,” said Loucks in a statement. “Wisdom in the context of elevated blood pressure levels may include knowledge that evidence-based practices, such as physical activity, diet, limited alcohol consumption and antihypertensive medication adherence, can improve well-being.”

After six months, researchers found that participants in the Mindfulness-Based Pressure Reduction group had an average drop in systolic blood pressure of 5.9 mm Hg, compared to a 1.4 mm Hg drop in the enhanced usually 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 enhanced usually care group. In addition, participants in the mindfulness group were more likely to eat heart-healthy food as well as report improved perceived stress and levels of mindfulness.

According to the study’s researchers, these results indicate that mindfulness can be an effective intervention to lower blood pressure.