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High Blood Pressure Reduction Effects Noticeable After Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Activities

Update Date: Oct 16, 2013 11:03 AM EDT

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) might help reduce high blood pressure for individuals with "prehypertension," according to a new study. 

"Our results provide evidence that MBSR, when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range," said Joel W. Hughes, PhD, of Kent State (Ohio) University and colleagues.

"Prehypertension receives increasing attention from doctors because it is associated with a wide range of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems," according to the study. "About 30% of Americans have prehypertension and may be prescribed medications for this condition."

For the study, the participants were 56 women and men who had high blood pressure but were not being treated with antihypertensive drugs. 
Mindfulness body scan exercises, sitting meditation and yoga exercises were the selected activities one group of patients were assigned to do. The sessions were to be done for two and a half hours per week.  

Lifestyle advice and a muscle-relaxation exercise was the mandatory treatment plan for the other group.

"This "active control" treatment group was not expected to have lasting effects on blood pressure," said the study. 

Researchers found that the patients in the mindfulness based treatment group had reductions in clinic-based blood pressure.

Other findings were the, "Systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg with in the control group who did not receive the mindfulness intervention" according to the study. "Diastolic blood pressure (the second, lower number) was also lower in the mindfulness-based intervention group: a reduction of nearly 2 mm Hg, compared to an increase of 1 mm Hg in the control group."

The researchers believe that MBSR activities may help to avoid or postpone the need for high blood pressure medications for those who have borderline prehypertension. The findings do not however confirm that the blood pressure reduction effects continued to stay low over time.

In addition to lowering clinical based high blood pressure, "mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions," according to Dr Hughes and coauthors. 

The findings are published in the Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.

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