Meditation Can Improve Your Heart Health

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We have all heard how a high fat diet, lack of exercise and smoking can contribute to heart disease but are you aware how stress can also increase your risk for heart disease?

Humans are equipped with a “fight or flight” response that is hard-wired in our nervous system to keep us safe. When we encounter a potential threat, a tiny part of our brain called the hypothalamus kicks our nervous system into high gear. It sends signals to the adrenal glands on top of the kidneys to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol to get you prepared to react to the threat. Adrenaline causes the heart rate and blood pressure to increase, providing a boost of energy. Cortisol, also known as a stress hormone, will increase blood glucose levels to supply the brain and other organs with energy. Once the perceived threat has passed and the brain realizes you are no longer in danger, your hormone levels return to normal and your blood pressure and heart rate slow. When stressors are always present, that fight-or-flight response stays turned on. High levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and blood pressure. These are common risk factors for heart disease.

How can you manage your long-term stress? There is one treatment option that is easily accessible, inexpensive and effective: meditation. According to the American Heart Association, numerous studies have reported on the benefits of meditation to improve heart rate, reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

When first starting to practice meditation, you may find it strange to sit in silence and do nothing—and believe it or not, it does take practice to meditate. To begin, you’ll want to find a comfortable, quiet place to sit and start with a 3 to 5-minute meditation. When you first start to practice meditation, your mind will want to wander. When this happens, bring yourself back to the activity and start again. 

There are many options for guided meditations online. Here are some simple options to try:

Breath Meditation

  1. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Inhale to the count of 4 (inhale, 1, 2, 3, 4).
  3. Exhale to the count of 4
  4. Repeat

Counting Meditation

  1. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Take a deep breath in, exhale and count (to yourself) “1”.
  3. Continue to inhale and exhale while counting.
  4. Repeat

Senses Meditation

  1. Take two deep breaths, expanding your lungs on each inhale and let them lower on the exhale.
  2. Check in on each of your senses and thoughts. While taking the deep breaths, ask yourself, what do you hear, smell, taste? How do you feel?
  3. Repeat

If you’re concerned about your blood pressure or stress levels, be sure to talk to your primary care physician. If you need a primary care physician, you can find one at