Meditation is usually associated with things like better focus and lower stress, but a new study published in the American Journal of Cardiology suggests that a meditation practice may also be associated with a lower risk of certain cardiovascular issues.
This study looked at data from the National Health Interview Survey and found that those who had a meditation practice also had lower occurrences of high cholesterol, high systemic blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and coronary artery disease.
Many people have the wrong idea about what meditation is. While meditation is sometimes incorrectly presented as clearing the mind of all thoughts, that is not the case. I tend to think of meditation as an exercise in focus. We meditate by picking one thing, like the breath or the physical sensations of the body, and we focus our attention on that one thing.
When our mind loses that focus and drifts to the chore list or our plan for tomorrow, and believe me it will, we notice that it isn’t focused on what we picked and we gently refocus it. That’s it — that’s meditation. We aren’t stopping our thoughts at all; they can and will continue to race by. We are just placing our focus on one thing, like the breath, trying to keep it there as much as we can and refocusing when we lose that focus.
If you are interested in learning meditation, get in touch with your local yoga studio and see if they have a meditation group. You can also check out meditation books by authors like Sharon Salzberg, Dan Harris and Joseph Goldstein or download a meditation app like Insight Timer or Calm.
While this study is compelling, meditation is just one of the many things we can incorporate into our lifestyle to promote heart health. I also suggest following a plant-based diet and getting some daily physical activity. This study shows us that the practice of meditation can be a handy tool in our heart healthy toolbox.