How Mind Body Approaches Reduce Blood Pressure Better Than Medication


Published:

Decades of research continue to unravel the relaxation response--the physiological and psychological opposite of the well-known fight-or-flight stress response that can be achieved through relaxation techniques like yoga or mediation--can reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke that affects as many as 1 billion people worldwide.

A new study led by investigators at Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH identified the genes associated with the body’s response to relaxation techniques and sheds light on the molecular mechanisms by which these interventions may work to lower blood pressure. The findings are published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Mindfulness and relaxation based trainings have shown beneficial effects on cardiovascular and inflammatory disorders as a preventative intervention. Research shows they can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and potentially better than pharmaceuticals.

“Traditionally, hypertension is treated with pharmacologic therapy, but not all patients respond to drug therapy, and many experience treatment-limiting side effects,” said co-senior author Randall Zusman, HMS associate professor of medicine and director of the Division of Hypertension at Mass General. “In these patients, alternative strategies are invaluable. In this study, we found that the relaxation response can successfully help reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients who are not taking medication.”

Towia Libermann, HMS associate professor of medicine and director of the Genomics, Proteomics, Bioinformatics, and Systems Biology Center at Beth Israel Deaconess, said, “To our knowledge, this is the first study to test such a mind-body intervention for a population of unmedicated adults with carefully documented, persistent hypertension, and this is the first study to identify gene expression changes specifically associated with the impact of a mind-body intervention on hypertension. Our results provide new insights into how integrative medicine--especially mind-body approaches--influences blood pressure control at the molecular level.”

While medication only exerts influence at one dimension being the cardiovascular level, relaxation benefits multiple body systems and creates and overall sense of well being benefiting our health over all.

First described more than four decades ago by Herbert Benson, HMS Mind/Body Medical Institute Distinguished Professor of Medicine and director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute and a co-author of the current study, the relaxation response is characterized by a set of measurable changes to the body, including decreased respiration rate and heart rate, all of which can be induced by mind-body techniques including meditation and yoga. Long-term relaxation response practice has been associated with increased brain cortical thickness and specific changes in gene expression.

In this study, Libermann, Zusman and colleagues enrolled 58 people with stage 1 essential hypertension, defined as having a systolic (top number) blood pressure between 140-159mm Hg and diastolic (bottom number) between 90-104mm Hg. Participants were either not taking medications to control their blood pressure or had tapered off them for five weeks prior to the outset of the study. Participants also filled out standardized questionnaires about stress, depression and anxiety.

Over the next eight weeks, participants attended eight weekly training sessions at which they were guided through mind-body interventions designed to elicit the relaxation response--including diaphragmatic breathing, mantra repetition and mindfulness meditation--while passively ignoring intrusive thoughts. Participants were also given an audio CD that guided them through the same sequence for use at home once a day.

After the eight weeks of training, patients filled out the same stress, depression and anxiety questionnaires and had blood drawn for gene expression testing along with blood pressure measurement. Overall, 13 of the 24 participants who completed the eight-week intervention experienced a clinically relevant drop in blood pressure--that is, specific reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings that moved participants below 140/90 mm Hg, the clinical definition of stage 1 hypertension.

Patients who demonstrated significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure--enough so that their blood pressure was below the definition of stage 1 essential hypertension--were classified as “responders.” Those whose blood pressure still fell within the definition of stage 1 hypertension, and those who did not see reduction in both numbers, were classified as “nonresponders.”

When Libermann and colleagues ran gene expression analyses comparing blood samples from the two groups, they found that specific gene expression changes had occurred in the responders over the course of the eight-week relaxation response intervention that were not observed in the nonresponders. Specifically, among responders the expression of 1,771 genes differed between the baseline blood tests and those taken after the eight weeks of relaxation response practice. Further, Libermann and colleagues determined that the reduction in blood pressure was correlated with genes linked to immune regulatory pathways, metabolism and glucose metabolism, cardiovascular system development and circadian rhythm.

“Interactive network analysis of the gene signature identified several molecules, particularly immune system-linked genes, as critical molecules for blood pressure reduction,” said first author Manoj Bhasin, HMS assistant professor of medicine and co-director of the Genomics, Proteomics, Bioinformatics, and Systems Biology Center at Beth Israel Deaconess. “Our innovative in-silico analysis indicates that meditation might be lowering blood pressure by acting on specific anti-inflammatory immune cells (M2 macrophages). Based on these findings, our lab is now applying these cutting edge omics and big data approaches to other alternative therapies, too, including Ayurveda, an Indian holistic healing system.”

“Our results suggest that the relaxation response reduced blood pressure -- at least in part -- by altering expression of genes in a select set of biological pathways,” co-first author John Denninger, HMS instructor in psychiatry at Mass General and director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute, noted. “Importantly, the changes in gene expression associated with this drop in blood pressure are consistent with the physical changes in blood pressure and inflammatory markers that one would anticipate and hope to observe in patients successfully treated for hypertension.

This article was republished from Prevent Disease.

See also:
Busy Is The New Addiction — Hurry Up And Relax!
Calm Mind Meditation

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

October 15, 2018

The working week begins under promising skies. Mental faculties are sharp and morning traffic flows smoothly. The industrious Capricorn Moon is favorably aligned with Mercury and Venus in Scorpio, a celestial “whistle while you work” signature…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

October 2018

October 14 - 18 Join the acclaimed Grandmaster William C. C. Chen for an intensive five-day Tai Chi Chuan Fall Retreat. Knowledge of the Yang-style short form is a requirement for participation....

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Eco Village
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Website »

More information

October 14 - November 19 60 PDAs A 36 day retreat in which acclaimed Qigong master, Junfeng Li, will meditate and practice not only Sheng Zhen Gong daily, but will also share traditions that...

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Eco Village
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
Website »

More information

Lunare is open to magickal vendors and holistic practitioners wishing to offer their spiritual goods and services to an audience interested in all things mystical. General admission to...

Cost: Free general admission, lecture tickets $15

Where:
Hunt Memorial Building
6 Main St
Nashua, NH  03064
View map »


Sponsor: Lunare Mystics
Telephone: 603-801-2113
Contact Name: Alyssa O'Mara
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join Psychic Medium Diane Lewis for gallery style readings. Diane will be connecting to spirit delivering messages from those who have crossed over. Don't miss this free event sponsored by...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hopkinton Public Library
13 Main Street
Hopkinton, MA, MA  01748
View map »


Sponsor: Hopkinton Public Library
Telephone: 617-645-6415
Contact Name: Diane Lewis
Website »

More information

Break emotional patterns that keep you stuck in the pain of addictive habits. Heal mental trauma through physical practices involving movement, breath, and meditation.

Where:
Yoga at the Ashram
368 Village Street
Millis, MA  02054
View map »


Sponsor: Yoga At The Ashram
Telephone: (508) 376-4525
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

With Carrie Rowan Wednesday evenings at 7pm, a 4-week introductory class that teaches quick energy medicine tools, mini meditations to help moms/dads and caregivers reduce stress and stay calm...

Where:
Fitzgerald Institute
Northboro, MA


Telephone: (508) 273-2610
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

October 18 - 21 Magnetic-harmonic vibrational therapist, Jay Emmanuel, A.K., N.S.,V.M. shares powerful energy techniques that use the forces of sounds produced by the human voice in combination...

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat Center
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
Website »

More information

Course participant experiences:  “After this course, I learned how to recognize where I hold my tension and release it.”  “My favorite part of the program is the...

Cost: $650

Where:
CHA Center for Mindfulness & Compassion
26 Central Street
2nd Floor Community Room
Somerville, MA  02143
View map »


Sponsor: CHA Center for Mindfulness & Compassion
Telephone: 617-591-6132
Contact Name: Bridget Kiley
Website »

More information

The H.E.A.R.T. Program® (Health Empowerment and Real Transformation) is an innovative holistic curriculum addressing the current health crisis and epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Michelle Caron
Website »

More information

Daily practice for peace, healing, Christ mindedness, meditation, awakening.

Where:
Milton, MA


Telephone: 617-696-5685
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

14 CEU Credits for Massage/Bodywork Therapists! Oct 19-21: Chi Nei Tsang And...pre-weekend women only event: Oct 18: Women’s Sexual Ecstacy - 1-6pm/6CEUs Chi Nei...

Cost: Please see our website

Where:
Eastover Estate & Eco Village
430 East St.
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Contact Name: Yingxing Wang
Website »

More information

October 19 - 20 (Workshop runs 10-5 both days) When the phase of the Sixth Sun began with the eclipse of July 11, 2010 it was time, according to Sergio’s teacher, for the ancient...

Where:
Natick Mariott Courtyard
Natick, MA


Contact Name: Sandy Corcoran
Website »

More information

With Yogi Amandeep Adi Shakti represents all divine energies. When activated, she manifests herself as creativity, prosperity, wisdom. Rare workshop uniting ancient science of Kundalini...

Where:
Yoga at the Ashram
368 Village St
Millis, MA  02054
View map »


Telephone: (508) 376-4525
Website »

More information

Connect with the ancient wisdom of yoga. Learn how yoga practices are designed to address life’s problems, such as work stress, relationship difficulties, and common mental health issues. Be...

Cost: $40

Where:
Yogalife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

No previous experience is required for this Friday evening event. It is essential for students who are unfamiliar with using the Pathway Prayer Process© and who plan to attend the 2-day...

Cost: $35

Where:
Circles of Wisdom - New location late Summer '18
386 Merrimack Street
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Bee Kind Music Class with Carrie Rowan inspires a love to music in little ones. 10am on Fridays for 8 weeks at Playtown Express in Southboro. To register call (508) 480-0022 or...

Where:
Playtown Express
150 Cordaville Road
Southboro, MA
View map »


Telephone: 508-273-2610
Website »

More information

The class is a combination of qi gong, yoga, meditation, and relaxation followed by a cup of healing tea. The class, developed by Korean enlightened master Ilchi Lee, is based on Sundo, a...

Cost: $10

Where:
Divine Paradigm
58b Macy St
Amesbury, MA  01913
View map »


Contact Name: Brad Fanger

More information

“For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth.” — Sanskrit Proverb Join us for an evening of deep exploration and transformation using the healing...

Cost: $40 (limited hardship rates available)

Where:
Museum of Modern Renaissance
115 College Avenue
Somerville, MA  02144
View map »


Sponsor: HolotropicMA
Contact Name: Allen Howell M.Ed. LMHC
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Refresh, refocus, simplify. Discover easy tools and strategies to prepare for an incredible holiday season. 8:00–8:30 Registration open 8:30–8:35 Welcome 8:35–9:20 Circle...

Cost: $99

Where:
Women’s Health Resource Center
9 Hanover Street
Lebanon, NH  03766
View map »


Sponsor: Almstrom Financial, Green Mt. Hypnosis, Patti Friedman, Eva Loomis
Telephone: (603) 650-2600
Contact Name: Women’s Health Resource Center

More information

October 20 - 21 Early Bird Special! Register before September 30 and save $45! Prerequisite: Be familiar with accessing the Akashic Records through the Pathway Prayer Process© either...

Cost: $350 before September 30

Where:
Circles of Wisdom - New location late Summer '18
386 Merrimack Street
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

See all that is new at Dragonfly! Come and meet our new practitioners and teachers and learn about the innovative holistic modalities that are being offered. Participate in free classes, see...

Where:
Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Rd.
Devens, MA  MA
View map »


Telephone: 978-487-7181
Website »

More information

October 20 & 21, 10:30am-6:30pm Practices and Approaches for PTSD, Depression and Anxiety with Erin Byron, MA, E-RYT500, C-IAYT, YACEP, Licensed Mental Health Professional Experiment with...

Cost: $325

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Telephone: 603-867-3969
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

The shamanic rattle is a sacred tool that can be used to shift into an altered state of consciousness, sense and track energy, and heal the energetic body, which contains the codes underlying...

Cost: $40

Where:
Akasha Studio
20 Birch Street
Roslindale, MA  02131
View map »


Sponsor: Miriam Katz, Shamanic Healer
Telephone: 617-545-5142
Contact Name: Miriam Katz
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags