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State of Mind

Mindfulness and its impact on heart health

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Healthy mind, healthy heart

A healthy heart consists of three pillars – staying active, eating well and mindfulness.

Did you know that, in addition to improving your quality of lifestyle, good mental health can also positively affect the heart? Meditation is not just great for your mental wellbeing, but it’s great for helping you to stay heart-healthy too.

How are the mind and the heart connected?

Studies have shown that mindfulness-based interventions1 can positively influence, and help reduce a number of cardiovascular risk factors,1 such as:

  • Little physical activity
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Glucose regulation

Findings from this research suggest that three main components may be active processes by which mindfulness interventions can exert cardiovascular effects:1

  1. Attention control (e.g. the ability to hold attention on experiences related to cardiovascular disease risk, such as smoking, diet, physical activity, and medication adherence)
  2. Emotion regulation (e.g. improved stress response, self-efficacy, and skills to manage craving for cigarettes, palatable foods, and sedentary activities)
  3. Self-awareness (e.g. self-referential processing and awareness of physical sensations due to cardiovascular disease risk factors)

This strengthens the idea that positive mental health is important for overall body wellness and that mindfulness and heart disease – specifically, the reliance on one to reduce the risk of the other, are linked.

Meditation for the mind and heart

Meditation is a mind-calming exercise2 that is primarily focused on attention but also draws upon loving thoughts, kindness and compassion – which are all key elements of mindfulness.

Studies have indicated that meditation can protect against heart disease – studies of meditation to date which have been systematically reviewed by the American Heart Association, suggest a possible benefit of meditation on cardiovascular risk reduction.2

Given the widely acknowledged benefits of meditation, it’s well worth trying to incorporate meditation into your daily routine – if you are not doing so already. There are low to no costs associated with meditation and there are no risks to your health, so it’s something that is easily accessible to everyone. 

Types of meditation: What works best for your mind and heart?

There are a number of different types of meditation3 which makes it accessible to everyone. From  yoga and mindfulness for kids, to adults, to exercising mind and body as we get older, everyone can find out for themselves which meditation flow works best for them. Some of the most popular can be classified under ‘moving meditation’ and ‘sitting meditation.’

Moving meditation:

  • qi gong
  • tai chi
  • yoga

Sitting meditation:

  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Vipassana
  • Mantra meditation
  • Relaxation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Zen meditation
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)

Findings from a study on the therapeutic mindfulness-based stress reduction program observed a significant reduction in the symptoms of anxiety and depression, perceived stress, blood pressure and BMI in patients after a three month follow up period.4

Getting started with meditation and mindfulness for the heart

Mindfulness is a personal path and you should always try to find your own routine to reap the benefits of developing daily mindfulness exercises. To help get you started though, the British Heart Foundation website offers a simple six-minute meditation for beginners. You only need to find a quiet room, sit comfortably on a chair or on the floor, and press play – the audio will guide you through the meditation.

A healthy mind and lifestyle as a recipe for heart health

A healthy heart consists of three pillars – staying active, eating well and mindfulness.

While mindfulness, especially meditation, can help ensure you maintain a healthy heart, it should not replace lifestyle changes that fall under the other two pillars of heart health – staying active and eating well by making healthy diet choices. Remembering each of these three elements gives you the best chance of keeping your heart in best possible health for as long as possible.  

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