Meditation to Lower Blood Pressure


Meditation, a mind-body practice is shown to promote relaxation, shows promise as a means of keeping your blood pressure in check. Blood pressure is a measurement of the force of blood against the walls of your arteries and can become elevated due to a number of factors (such as age-related narrowing of the arteries, underlying medical problems, and excessive sodium intake). By using meditation to manage your blood pressure, you may be able to boost your defense against heart disease, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.

How Might Meditation Work to Lower Blood Pressure?

While researchers have yet to determine how meditation might lower blood pressure, it’s thought that the practice may affect activity in the autonomic nervous system (which regulates blood pressure).

Meditation appears to calm activity in the sympathetic nervous system (known to narrow the blood vessels in response to stress) and increases activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (known to promote widening of the blood vessels).

The Science Behind Meditation and Blood Pressure

Transcendental meditation (a type of meditation that involves silently repeating a word, sound, or phrase in order to stop distracting thoughts from entering the mind) may be effective for controlling blood pressure, according to a 2008 analysis of nine clinical trials. Investigators concluded that practicing transcendental meditation may have the potential to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by approximately 4.7 and 3.2 mm Hg, respectively. (Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading; diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number.)​

It should be noted that an earlier research review (published in 2004) sized up to five clinical trials and found a lack of good-quality studies to support the use of transcendental meditation for the management of blood pressure.

Should You Use Meditation to Manage High Blood Pressure?

Since scientists have yet to prove that meditation can significantly lower your blood pressure, it’s important not to rely solely on meditation as a means of keeping your blood pressure in check. In order to achieve and maintain normal blood pressure levels, you should follow a healthy diet, limit your intake of sodium and alcohol, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and avoid smoking


The adults who entered the study were “pre-hypertensive,” meaning that they displayed higher levels of blood pressure but not quite high enough to take medication. One question left unanswered by the study, its authors said, is whether meditation can help individuals whose hypertension has crossed into the range commonly treated by the medication or whether a combination of meditation and medication will work better than either treatment alone.

The mindfulness-based participants in the study used body scan exercises, sitting meditation and yoga. They practiced MBSR for eight weeks, attending sessions led by a skilled practitioner two and a half hours a week and practicing up to an hour a day on their own.

They lowered their clinic blood pressure measurements – the type of measurement commonly taken in a doctor’s office – as much as other alternative treatments, such as modified diet and exercise, have been shown to do. The use of MBSR was only slightly less effective than blood pressure medication, said Hughes.

The reasons for seeking alternatives to medication can include a desire to avoid side effects. Adherence to medication for hypertension is often poor, Hughes noted, and some patients do not improve their blood pressure levels by taking pills. 


Fresco likened the practice of MBSR to going to a gym for fitness. “It’s all about training this attention muscle in the brain,” he said. The goal is to reduce stress and strengthen the resolve to change behavior patterns.

This was the first scientific study in the U.S. to document that MBSR, an increasingly popular practice, can have an effect on high blood pressure, he said.

The study was funded by a $545,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health. Hughes and Fresco were co-principal investigators. They are preparing to follow up with a longer study involving 180 adults to find out whether the effects of MBSR practice on blood pressure are lasting. 

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