PET scans show cardiac rehabilitation with meditation increases blood flow
Patients with coronary heart disease who included Transcendental Meditation (TM) with their cardiac rehabilitation regime increased blood flow to the heart by more than 20 percent, according a new study by researchers from the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the Institute for Prevention Research, and published in the Journal of Nuclear Cardiology.
Considered a gold standard for measuring myocardial flow reserve non-invasively, cardiac PET has diagnostic and prognostic significance in coronary heart disease. The research involved 56 patients who had coronary heart disease, including recent heart attack, coronary artery bypass, or angina. The researchers randomly divided the subjects into four groups, cardiac rehabilitation, Transcendental Meditation, Transcendental Meditation plus cardiac rehabilitation, or usual care.
The results showed that of the 37 patients who completed post-testing, myocardial blood flow increased by 20.7 percent in the group that did both Transcendental Meditation and cardiac rehabilitation. Blood flow in the group that practiced Transcendental Meditation alone increased 12.8 percent. Cardiac rehabilitation by itself showed an improvement of 5.8 percent. Patients who received the usual treatment showed a decrease in blood flow of -10.3 percent.
While it's not known precisely how Transcendental Meditation would increase blood flow, the researchers speculate that it's a result of improved endothelial-mediated coronary and arteriolar vasomotor function. That is, reduced levels of stress hormones and possibly inflammation may result in improved function of the endothelial cells that line the coronary arteries. They cite research, which has found that modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease improves blood flow in the heart.
While the study suggests that the Transcendental Meditation technique can increase blood flow in cardiovascular patients, carefully conducted clinical trials with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm the benefit.
"More research needs to be done,” said Robert Schneider, MD, FACC, co-director of the study and medical director of the Institute for Prevention Research. “But this study and previous research strongly suggest that medical professionals should consider utilizing this simple yet effective mind-body intervention in their heart health treatment and prevention programs.”