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Research Update (Jan 2007)

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  • Kevin W Chen
    Ditto B , Eclache M , Goldman N . “ Short-term autonomic and cardiovascular effects of mindfulness body scan meditation.” Ann Behav Med. 2006 Dec;
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 7, 2007
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      Ditto B, Eclache M, Goldman N. “Short-term autonomic and cardiovascular effects of mindfulness body scan meditation.”  Ann Behav Med. 2006 Dec; 32(3):227-34.
      Background: Recent research suggests that the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program has positive effects on health, but little is known about the immediate physiological effects of different components of the program. Purpose: To examine the short-term autonomic and cardiovascular effects of one of the techniques employed in mindfulness meditation training, a basic body scan meditation. Methods: In Study 1, 32 healthy young adults (23 women, 9 men) were assigned randomly to either a meditation, progressive muscular relaxation or wait-list control group. Each participated in two laboratory sessions 4 weeks apart in which they practiced their assigned technique. In Study 2, using a within-subjects design, 30 healthy young adults (15 women, 15 men) participated in two laboratory sessions in which they practiced meditation or listened to an audiotape of a popular novel in counterbalanced order. Heart rate, cardiac respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), and blood pressure were measured in both studies. Additional measures derived from impedance cardiography were obtained in Study 2. Results: In both studies, participants displayed significantly greater increases in RSA while meditating than while engaging in other relaxing activities. A significant decrease in cardiac pre-ejection period was observed while participants meditated in Study 2. This suggests that simultaneous increases in cardiac parasympathetic and sympathetic activity may explain the lack of an effect on heart rate. Female participants in Study 2 exhibited a significantly larger decrease in diastolic blood pressure during meditation than the novel, whereas men had greater increases in cardiac output during meditation compared to the novel. Conclusions: The results indicate both similarities and differences in the physiological responses to body scan meditation and other relaxing activities.

      Jouper J, Hassmen P, Johansson M. “Qigong exercise with concentration predicts increased health.”  Am J Chin Med. 2006; 34(6):949-57

      Regular physical activity has many positive health effects. Despite this, approximately 50% of all adults are not exercising enough to enjoy better health and may, therefore, need an alternative to vigorous physical exercise. Qigong offers a gentle way to exercise the body. A questionnaire sample of 253 participants was collected and correlations with the variable health-now were analyzed. Results showed that health-now was positively correlated with number of completed qigong courses (p < 0.05), with level of concentration (p < 0.01), session-time (p < 0.01), and years of practice (p < 0.05). Among these variables, concentration predicts an increased feeling of health (R(2) = 0.092). Qigong exercise thereby seems to offer a viable alternative to other more vigorous physical activities when wellness is the primary goal. When interpreted using self-determination theory, qigong seems to satisfy needs related to autonomy, competence and relatedness, thereby, primarily attracting individuals who are intrinsically motivated.
      Paul-Labrador M, Polk D, Dwyer JH, Velasquez I, Nidich S, Rainforth M, Schneider R, Merz CN.  “Effects of a randomized controlled trial of transcendental meditation on components of the metabolic syndrome in subjects with coronary heart disease.”  Arch Intern Med. 2006; 166(11):1218-24.
      BACKGROUND: The metabolic syndrome is thought to be a contributor to coronary heart disease (CHD), and components of the syndrome have been identified as possible therapeutic targets. Previous data implicate neurohumoral activation related to psychosocial stress as a contributor to the metabolic syndrome. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of transcendental meditation (TM) on components of the metabolic syndrome and CHD. METHODS: We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial of 16 weeks of TM or active control treatment (health education), matched for frequency and time, at an academic medical center in a total of 103 subjects with stable CHD. Main outcome measures included blood pressure, lipoprotein profile, and insulin resistance determined by homeostasis model assessment (calculated as follows: [(fasting plasma glucose level [in milligrams per deciliter] x fasting plasma insulin level [in microunits per milliliter]) x 0.0552]/22.5); endothelial function measured by brachial artery reactivity testing; and cardiac autonomic system activity measured by heart rate variability. RESULTS: The TM group had beneficial changes (measured as mean +/- SD) in adjusted systolic blood pressure (-3.4 +/- 2.0 vs 2.8 +/- 2.1 mm Hg; P = .04), insulin resistance (-0.75 +/- 2.04 vs 0.52 +/- 2.84; P = .01), and heart rate variability (0.10 +/- 0.17 vs -0.50 +/- 0.17 high-frequency power; P = .07) compared with the health education group, respectively. There was no effect of brachial artery reactivity testing. CONCLUSIONS: Use of TM for 16 weeks in CHD patients improved blood pressure and insulin resistance components of the metabolic syndrome as well as cardiac autonomic nervous system tone compared with a control group receiving health education. These results suggest that TM may modulate the physiological response to stress and improve CHD risk factors, which may be a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of CHD.
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