Excerpts from the Book
Decreased Blood Pressure and Improved Cardiovascular Health
Deb Scott learned the Transcendental Meditation technique in 2011 when she was the chief information officer at a medical facility in southern Arizona. A cyber security expert who spent over thirty years in the military or in a civilian status serving the military, Deb started the TM technique because she said, “the job was horrifically stressful” and affecting her health. Deb had digestive problems, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. She was also motivated to learn meditation because her instruction was free. Deb was able to learn the TM technique without charge as part of a “provider resiliency” program that made the technique available to “wounded warriors” and those providing them with healthcare. Before learning to meditate, Deb’s blood pressure was averaging around 150/90 and her LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) had climbed to about 230, which is well above normal—over 190 is considered very high. Like most people who practice the TM technique for a number of years, Deb experienced multiple benefits.
Deb told us that “from the time I started TM, I have not had an abnormal blood pressure reading.” Typically, she said her blood pressure is now in the low 120s and high 60s, and her cholesterol is in the 180s, which she said is the lowest it’s been since she was 25.
Deb actually found another job after learning to meditate, and while she said that the job “was also a very important job serving the military and was also very stressful,” she found that she was much better able to naturally cope with the stress of work. Through church groups Deb had previously done a visualization kind of meditation and one where she would repeat phrases usually from a poem or a prayer. She said she did those for many years whenever she was under stress. We asked her how the results compared to her TM practice, and Deb said, it was spiritually helpful, “but oh my goodness, it wasn’t anything like TM for the physiological help.”
Deb also had suffered from claustrophobia for many years, and recently had to have an MRI, which can be a problem for those with her condition because the procedure involves being put inside a long full body tube. Deb said:
As soon as they started I panicked, and they had to stop. Then the nurse asked if there was anything she could do because otherwise they were going to have to cancel the MRI. I told her I could meditate for a few minutes. Then hey put the tube over my head and I meditated the entire 55 minutes I was in there. For me it was amazing.
In a follow-up just before the book was published, Deb told us, “TM is still the best gift I have ever given myself.”
Note that Deb’s experience of reduced blood pressure and cholesterol levels is better than the typical experience. Individual results will vary, but often there will be significant reductions in both blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Deb with husband and grandchildren
A study published in 1995 in the journal Hypertension/5 looked at the effects of TM in a study involving 127 African Americans living in an urban setting with an average age of 67 years. The subjects were randomly assigned to one of two experimental groups, a TM or a Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) group, or to a third “usual-care” control group. The usual-care control subjects received instructions for weight loss, salt restriction, alcohol moderation, and exercise. The average blood pressure of the TM group prior to the study was 145 mm Hg systolic and 94 mm Hg diastolic. After just three months, the TM group reduced their blood pressure an average of 10.7 mm Hg systolic and 6.4 mm Hg diastolic, which was a significantly greater reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to the PMR group and the control group.
Another paper analyzed 17 studies involving over 900 participants and compared the TM results with other stress reduction programs for treating high blood pressure./6 That study used the “meta-analysis” tool described in the prior chapter to evaluate the different studies. This method is considered reliable since it takes into account the number of subjects in a study, and codes for the strength of the research design (e.g., in the best designed studies subjects are randomly assigned to the different study groups), and other factors and comes up with a quantitative index called an “effect size.” The results showed that compared to other stress reduction programs, TM significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure while none of the other treatments, including simple biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation, and stress management training, showed any significant results.
A study on cholesterol is Cooper M. J. and Aygen M. M., “Effect of Transcendental Meditation on serum cholesterol and blood pressure,” Harefuah, Journal of the Israel Medical Association 95(1): 1-2, 1978