Blood Pressure Intervention Through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
October 16, 2013

Mindfulness-based Interventions May Provide Alternative To Medications For Prehypertension

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) effectively lowers blood pressure for patients with borderline high blood pressure or "prehypertension."

"Our results provide evidence that MBSR, when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range," writes Joel W. Hughes, PhD, of Kent State University and colleagues.

The study included 56 male and female participants who had been previously diagnosed with prehypertension - blood pressure that was higher than desirable, but not yet so high that doctors would prescribe antihypertensive drugs. Doctors are paying an increasing amount of attention to prehypertension because of its association with heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. Currently, approximately 30 percent of Americans have prehypertension and might be on prescription medication.

The participants were divided into two groups. The first was a mindfulness-based interventions group who met for eight group sessions of 2 and a half hours per week. These sessions were led by an experienced instructor and included three main types of mindfulness skills: body scan exercises, sitting meditation, and yoga exercises. Participants were encouraged to continue these mindfulness exercises at home.

The second group was an "active control" group. They received lifestyle advice plus a muscle-relaxation activity. The researchers did not expect this group to experience any lasting effects on blood pressure.

Measurements of blood pressure were compared between the two groups to determine whether the mindfulness-based intervention reduced blood pressure in this group of people at risk of cardiovascular problems. The researchers found significant reductions in clinic-based blood pressure measurements in the MBSR group. In this group, the systolic blood pressure - the first, higher number - decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1mm Hg in the active control group.

The MBSR group also had a decrease in diastolic blood pressure - the second, lower number - with a reduction of nearly 2mm Hg. The active control group, in contrast, showed an increase of 1mm Hg.

Ambulatory monitoring, an out-of-office, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring method that aims to reduce the "white coat" hypertension, is an increasingly used alternative to clinic-based blood pressure measurements. The researchers saw no significant difference in blood pressure with the mindfulness-based intervention with 24-hour ambulatory monitoring.

"Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions," according to Dr Hughes. MBSR and other types of meditation may be useful in lowering blood pressure, according to the study. Prior research has shown a small but significant reduction in blood pressure with Transcendental Meditation. The current study, however, is the first to specifically investigate the blood pressure effects of mindfulness-based intervention in patients with prehypertension.

The reductions in blood pressure from mindfulness-based interventions are modest; however they are similar to many drug interventions and potentially large enough to lead to reductions in the risk of heart attack or stroke. The researchers say that further research is needed to know if the blood pressure-lowering effects are sustained over time.

Mindfulness-based interventions may someday provide a useful and effective alternative to prevent or delay the need for medications in patients with borderline high blood pressure.

The results of this study were published in a recent issue of Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.