The Health Benefits of Meditation (Video)

If you think meditation is just another popular fad in health and wellness – think again – and do so mindfully. Touted by many for helping them achieve a myriad of results, ranging from relaxation to improved performance on the job and excelling in athletics, meditation is now being linked to a decrease in a person’s risk of heart disease.

For the first time, the American Heart Association (AHA) has suggested that meditation can lower several risk factors of heart disease, including blood pressure, stress, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. The suggestion, issued in a statement by the AHA’s Council on Clinical Cardiology Committee in late September, is based on a review of scientific data from dozens of studies.

“Overall, studies of meditation suggest a possible benefit on cardiovascular risk, although the overall quality and in some cases quantity of study data is modest,” the statement said. To validate the suggestions, the group’s statement also calls for more research on meditation and cardiovascular risk, including studies with more participants and long-term follow-up.

(Video: The Baptist Health News Team hears from Beth Ruhmann, certified therapeutic recreation specialist, about the health benefits of meditation. Video by George Carvalho)

“More scientific research is starting to come out that backs the positive effects meditation can have on one’s health,” said Beth Ruhmann, a certified therapeutic recreation specialist with Baptist Health South Florida. “Meditation is something everyone can do. Sitting quietly and taking just four deep breaths can quickly relax you and lower your stress level.”

Among other things, inactive forms of meditation – meditation done while sitting – may also be associated with decreased levels of anxiety and depression, and improved sleep and overall well-being, the AHA guidelines note.

Meditation for Stress

Ms. Ruhmann, who has been teaching meditation for 30 years, says one of the conditions for which meditation is most helpful is stress. Long-term stress is tied to six of the leading causes of death in the U.S., she adds. Meditation can counter the impact of stress on the body, according to the AHA guidelines.

“Stress is related to a multitude of diseases,” Ms. Ruhmann said. “When we meditate and focus our thoughts inward to breathe slowly and deeply, we can lower our blood pressure, body temperature and feel less stressed.”

Meditation can reverse the body’s physiological responses to stress, which can include sweating, rapid breathing and a faster heartbeat, she adds.

The Baptist Health News Team spoke with Ms. Ruhmann before a meditation program she led at the organization’s Community Resource Center in west Miami. Watch the video now.

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