Stress Reduction and Health

Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) has been demonstrated to have beneficial effects relative to several physiologic measurements in humans. These include improved immune status, decreased inflammation as measured by blood tests, improved DNA repair (increased telomere length), and alterations in metabolic activity in areas of the brain that are viewed as beneficial relative to stress, anxiety and pain as measured by functional MRI scan of the brain (fMRI). Similarly other forms of meditation have been studied relative to cardiovascular risk in humans. The results indicate that stress reduction from meditation can decrease the “composite risk of death, heart attack and stroke” by 48% in patients who have experienced a previous heart attack. (1)

“A selected mind-body intervention, the TM program, significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in coronary heart disease patients. These changes were associated with lower blood pressure and psychosocial stress factors. Therefore, this practice may be clinically useful in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease.”

This degree of protection exceeds the benefits of statin drugs in patients who have had a heart attack  and exceeds the risk reduction accomplished by cardiac rehabilitation exercise programs.

A review of studies on the effects of meditation on cardiovascular disease reported: (2)

Psychosocial stress is a nontraditional risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality that may respond to behavioral or psychosocial interventions. …. Randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and other controlled studies indicate this meditation technique reduces risk factors and can slow or reverse the progression of pathophysiological changes underlying cardiovascular disease. Studies with this technique have revealed reductions in blood pressure, carotid artery intima-media thickness, myocardial ischemia, left ventricular hypertrophy, mortality, and other relevant outcomes. The magnitudes of these effects compare favorably with those of conventional interventions for secondary prevention

Dr. Dean Ornish utilized both meditation and yoga training in his lifestyle intervention program along with moderate exercise, smoke cessation and elimination of junk food (low fat vegan diet). The results demonstrated reduced coronary artery plaque within 2 years. Although many have attributed this to the vegan low fat diet, I have suggested in the past that the beneficial results were accomplished by stress reduction, exercise, smoke cessation, and elimination of junk food (especially refined sugar, flour, trans-fats and refined vegetable oils)

Our culture is not attuned to the regular practice of meditation or yoga. When I recommend stress reduction with these techniques to my patients few pursue it despite providing them with detailed descriptions of the physical benefits demonstrated by medical studies. One does not need to become a Buddhist in order to benefit from the practice of meditation. In the early 1970s the first stress reduction clinic utilizing MBSR(Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) and Yoga was established at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center by Jon Kabat Zinn PhD. Since then many studies have documented the benefits of stress reduction relative to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain management, depression and anxiety.

Patients who have experienced their first major depressive episode can reduce the risk of a subsequent major depressive episode by 50% simply practicing MBSR regularly.

Unlike drugs, angioplasty, coronary stents, surgery, and injections, meditation and yoga have no potential negative side effects or complications. They simply require time, practice and a modest amount of training. Inexpensive self-help books, CDs and on-line resources are available to get started. Measurable physiologic benefits are experienced within a few weeks. Blood pressure drops, stress hormones decrease, blood sugars come down, insulin sensitivity improves, immune cells work better, sleep improves, suffering from chronic pain decreases, and functional status improves. That’s a considerable amount of benefit achieved by simply sitting quietly and observing your breath as it moves in and out of your body.

Meditation and yoga are two ways to reduce stress. For a healthy life to achieve stress reduction we must examine many areas. What aspects of daily life can increase and decrease stress and our physiologic response to stress?

Important factors to consider include social isolation, physical and social contact with friends/family/pets, meaningful work, laughter and humor, time spent outdoors, exercise, proper sleep habits and exposure to natural rather than artificial light. These all play significant roles in governing our stress levels, physiologic response to stress and the attendant changes in health.

Social isolation is harmful while regular contact with family and friends is beneficial. Caring for a pet seems to reduce blood pressure and enhance longevity. Engaging in meaningful work for pay or as a volunteer is essential for health, longevity and happiness. Spending time outdoors regularly and cycling your daily activity with the sun (circadian rhythm normalization) are essential to health and stress reduction. Laughter and social interaction provide healing while rumination over problems causes illness. All of these aspects to healthy living deserve attention but if you are ill, overweight, suffer chronic pain, disability or substance abuse then meditation and yoga can have profoundly beneficial effects. When combined with a Paleolithic diet and adequate restorative sleep, stress reduction techniques provide a powerful healing pathway.

Below is a long list of links to articles related to stress reduction, meditation, and yoga in the areas of chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, cancer, pre-natal care, anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, smoke cessation, burnout, immune function, inflammation, migraine, blood pressure control, traumatic brain injury and even psoriasis.

Read to your heart’s content.

Bob Hansen MD

(1) Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in Blacks.

(2) Psychosocial stress and cardiovascular disease Part 2: effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation program in treatment and prevention.

Here is the long list of other references. I have tried to group them in categories. There is allot of overlap between categories so my classification is somewhat arbitrary.

Asthma

Yoga intervention for adults with mild-to-moderate asthma: a pilot study.

Cardiovascular Disease:

Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in Blacks.

Usefulness of the transcendental meditation pro… [Am J Cardiol. 1996] – PubMed – NCBI

A randomised controlled trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans.

Effect of meditation on endothelial function in Black Americans with metabolic syndrome: a randomized trial.

Is there a role for stress management in reducing hypertension in African Americans?

Trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans. II. Sex and risk subgroup analysis.

Yoga for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.

Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension.

Yoga Nidra relaxation increases heart rate variability and is unaffected by a prior bout of Hatha yoga.

Influence of psychosocial factors and biopsychosocial interventions on outcomes after myocardial infarction.

Influence of psychosocial factors and biopsychosocial interventions on outcomes after myocardial infarction.

Trial of relaxation in reducing coronary risk: four year follow up.

When and why do heart attacks occur? Cardiovascular triggers and their potential role.

Emotional stressors trigger cardiovascular events.

How brain influences neuro-cardiovascular dysfunction.

CNS effects:

Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation

Central and autonomic nervous system interaction is altered by short-term meditation

Neruoimaging and EEG

Neural mechanisms of mindfulness and meditation: Evidence from neuroimaging studies.

Short-term meditation induces white matter changes in the anterior cingulate

Mechanisms of white matter changes induced by meditation

Meditation’s impact on default mode network and hippocampus in mild cognitive impairment: a pilot study.

Mindfulness starts with the body: somatosensory attention and top-down modulation of cortical alpha rhythms in mindfulness meditation.

Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex.

Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex.

Cancer:

Increased mindfulness is related to improved stress and mood following participation in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program in individuals with cancer.

Impact of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) on attention, rumination and resting blood pressure in women with cancer: a waitlist-controlled study.

A non-randomized comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and healing arts programs for facilitating post-traumatic growth and spirituality in cancer outpatients.

One year pre-post intervention follow-up of psychological, immune, endocrine and blood pressure outcomes of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in breast and prostate cancer outpatients.

Impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on sleep, mood, stress and fatigue symptoms in cancer outpatients.

Keeping the balance–an overview of mind-body therapies in pediatric oncology.

Randomised controlled trials of yoga interventions for women with breast cancer: a systematic literature review.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer outpatients.

A pilot study evaluating the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on psychological status, physical status, salivary cortisol, and interleukin-6 among advanced-stage cancer patients and their caregivers.

Can diet in conjunction with stress reduction affect the rate of increase in prostate specific antigen after biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer?

Meditation, melatonin and breast/prostate cancer: hypothesis and preliminary data.

Diabetes

Mindfulness-based stress reduction is associated with improved glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus: a pilot study.

Immune System:

Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation.

Insomnia and Sleep Physiology.

Mind-body interventions for the treatment of insomnia: a review.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction compared with cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of insomnia comorbid with cancer: a randomized, partially blinded, noninferiority trial.

Experienced mindfulness meditators exhibit higher parietal-occipital EEG gamma activity during NREM sleep.

I-CAN SLEEP: rationale and design of a non-inferiority RCT of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the treatment of Insomnia in CANcer survivors.

New insights into circadian aspects of health and disease.

Irritable Bowel

Mindfulness-based stress reduction for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms: a randomized wait-list controlled trial.

 

Pain:

A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation.

The validation of an active control intervention for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

[Mindfulness-based therapeutic approaches: benefits for individuals suffering from pain].

Mindfulness-based stress reduction, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and Zen meditation for depression, anxiety, pain, and psychological distress.

Mindfulness starts with the body: somatos… [Front Hum Neurosci. 2013] – PubMed – NCBI

Altered anterior insula activation during anticipation and experience of painful stimuli in expert meditators.

Differential effects on pain intensity and unpleasantness of two meditation practices.

Self-directed Mindfulness Training and Improvement in Blood Pressure, Migraine Frequency, and Quality of Life.

Effectiveness of mindfulness meditation (Vipassana) in the management of chronic low back pain.

Mindfulness meditation in the control of severe headache.

The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain.

An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: theoretical considerations and preliminary results.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction for chronic pain conditions: variation in treatment outcomes and role of home meditation practice.

Psych, Depression, Anxiety, Burnout, Students

Mindfulness meditation practices as adjunctive treatments for psychiatric disorders.

Reducing psychological distress and obesity through Yoga practice

Yoga and social support reduce prenatal depression, anxiety and cortisol.

Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-Being [Internet].

Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Tai chi training reduces self-report of inattention in healthy young adults.

Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout and teaching efficacy.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Low-Income, Predominantly African American Women With PTSD and a History of Intimate Partner Violence.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder.

Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Enhanced response inhibition during intensive meditation training predicts improvements in self-reported adaptive socioemotional functioning.

Intensive meditation training improves perceptual discrimination and sustained attention.

Home-based deep breathing for depression in patients with coronary heart disease: a randomised controlled trial.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers psychological distress in medical students.

Yoga and exercise for symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with poststroke disability: a randomized, controlled pilot trial.

The effect of yoga on coping strategies among intensive care unit nurses.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health-related quality of life in a heterogeneous patient population.

Developing mindfulness in college students through movement-based courses: effects on self-regulatory self-efficacy, mood, stress, and sleep quality.

Differential effects of mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and loving-kindness meditation on decentering and negative reactions to repetitive thoughts.

Psychological and neural mechanisms of trait mindfulness in reducing depression vulnerability.

A narrative review of yoga and mindfulness as complementary therapies for addiction.

The acute effects of yogic breathing exercises on craving and withdrawal symptoms in abstaining smokers.

Yoga and massage therapy reduce prenatal depression and prematurity.

Mind-body interventions during pregnancy for preventing or treating women’s anxiety.

Misc. and General

Mindfulness-based interventions for physical conditions: a narrative review evaluating levels of evidence.

Evaluation of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program for caregivers of children with chronic conditions.

Empirical explorations of mindfulness: conceptual and methodological conundrums.

Mindfulness meditation: do-it-yourself medicalization of every moment.

Becoming conscious: the science of mindfulness.

Meditate to medicate.

Mindfulness in medicine.

Cultivating mindfulness: effects on well-being.

Mind-body medicine. An introduction and review of the literature.

Tai chi chuan in medicine and health promotion.

Tai chi/yoga effects on anxiety, heartrate, EEG and math computations.

Mindfulness Research Update: 2008.

Development and preliminary evaluation of a telephone-based mindfulness training intervention for survivors of critical illness.

A randomized controlled trial of Koru: a mindfulness program for college students and other emerging adults.

Hair Cortisol as a Biomarker of Stress in Mindfulness Training for Smokers.

A review of the literature examining the physiological processes underlying the therapeutic benefits of Hatha yoga.

Body Awareness: a phenomenological inquiry into the common ground of mind-body therapies.

Cortical dynamics as a therapeutic mechanism for touch healing.

Establishing key components of yoga interventions for musculoskeletal conditions: a Delphi survey.

Hatha yoga on body balance.

Yoga might be an alternative training for the quality of life and balance in postmenopausal osteoporosis.

Becoming conscious: the science of mindfulness.

Organ Transplant

Mindfulness meditation to reduce symptoms after organ transplant: a pilot study.

Post Traumatic Brain Injury

A pilot study examining the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on symptoms of chronic mild traumatic brain injury/postconcussive syndrome.

Psoriasis

Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA).

Telemorase, DNA, Genes

Rapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators.

Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres.

Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators.

Contemplative practice, chronic fatigue, and telomerase activity: a comment on Ho et al.

Toward a unified field of study: longevity, regeneration, and protection of health through meditation and related practices.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s