In today’s world, life has become synonymous with race. Nobody has the privilege to pause or stroll. Everyone is expected to run, run and only run. Be it for the young kids, who run haplessly to catch up with their academic syllabus and to satiate the expectations set on their tender shoulders by their parents and teachers, or the youngsters who race with each other in college admissions, jobs, and even love, and aged people struggle for receiving care, affection and even time, from their children. Given the scenario which is prevalent worldwide, it is not an understatement to conclude that almost 70% of the population has increased stress levels and subsequent increase in their blood pressures. The increased blood pressure or hypertension, as it is called technically has become a common issue even for people below 30 years of age. Though it might sound like a disorder, hypertension is a serious cause for concern and can become lethal if left unattended and uncared. The increase in blood pressure causes strain to all the vital organs of the body resulting in irreparable damage.
Most of the above information is well-known to almost every one of us. Before getting admonished for repeating the known facts, let me know to introduce my write up which is about the link between meditation and hypertension. I can hear your voices that go, “what? Introduce?” well, yes. I have just begun. Are you aware of the fact that, although hypertensive patients are treated with anti-hypertensive drugs which improve their cardiologicalfunctions, about one-third of the patients still remains uncured? This is startling, as the modern medical science boasts of various advancements in the field of medicine and a lot of breakthroughs that has the potential to cure diseases that were considered fatal before. Recent studies concluded that, in addition to the medical assistance, it is also important to treat the underlying mental stress that induces the high blood pressure. The treatment intended for soothing, calming, and ultimate reduction of the mental stress is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
WHAT IS COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY?
When we look at the word behavioral therapy, we tend to confine our thoughts to meditation and yoga. But it is actually an ocean which is very deep with a vast expanse with proven effectiveness. Sitting on a mat and closing your nostrils alternatively with your two fingers is not a be all and end all of the mind control. It is proved that cognitive behavioral therapies have had a positive impact on the hypertensive patients and helped them reduce their mental stress resulting in a drop in their pressure levels. CBT is very responsive as it can be customized and individualized based on the requirements of the person thus lowering the blood pressure (BP).
MINDFULNESS MEDITATION BASEDSTRESS REDUCTION
As mentioned earlier, stress reduction programs have vast branches, one of which is mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program which is gaining popularity as a therapy for hypertension. In this program, the individuals are encouraged to have a connection with their inner mind, feelings, emotions, inner nature, and behavior. This way, the individuals are empowered to analyze their feelings as an outsider, which will enable them to understand their expectations and emotions even better. The best way to find a solution to an issue is to analyze the issue as a third person and try to view its different perspectives and orientations. It is very easy to put this on paper, but actually tough to execute in real life. That is the reason why many leading health centers have welcomed MBSR programs for helping people overcome hypertension. MBSR is considered even more effective than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as MBSR provides a stronger connection between the individuals and their emotions. The individuals understand their inner feelings in a much better way, thus reducing unnecessary anxieties and stress. The studies concluded that the patients who have been given MBSR therapy were found to react to anti-hypertensive drugs much faster and more effective than those treated only with conventional hypertensive drugs.
MEDITATION WITH CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT
There is a common complaint that treating hypertensive patients only with clichéd stress-reducing techniques like meditation and yoga is not found to be effective. Meditation, a common technique for mind-calming is no doubt an effective way to reduce stress levels, but the extent of its effectiveness is limited to, stress induced by a specific problem or job induced tensions resulting in increased blood pressure. People who become hypertensive without any external cause or by genetic heredity cannot find a cure by resorting to meditation or any other cognitive behavioral therapy. They will require medical assistance like antihypertensivedrugs and other preventive drugs to protect them from cardiovascular problems. However, for those who become hypertensive because of a specific stress, meditation is indeed an effective therapy.
MINDFULNESS MEDITATION AND YOGA AND THEIR EFFECT ON HYPERTENSION TREATMENT
Mindfulness meditation is an even more advanced form of meditation where the individuals are asked to involve themselves with full consciousness, unlike conventional meditation which encourages people to study their subconscious mind. Mindfulness meditation has shown more powerful and impressive results compared to the traditional meditation in the stress reduction. Yoga is not limited only to weight reduction as wrongly perceived by many people, it is also useful in stress reduction and improved mental health. There are a lot of postures that soothes and relaxes the nerves that connect to the central nervous system and brain, thus giving the person a sense of relaxation and peacefulness. Some postures in yoga directly impact the flow of blood across different parts of the body thereby controlling the blood pressure.
LIMITATIONS OF MINDFULNESS MEDITATION AND YOGA
The recent research studies show that meditation in combination with conventional treatment has reduced 20mmhg blood pressure more than that achieved only by traditional medication. However, there are certain limitations with using CBT and meditation in the treatment of hypertension.
· Some people tend to skip the antihypertensive drugs with a misconception that meditation and yoga will clear all their mental stress alleviating the necessity of drugs. This is not a correct practice as no study has proved that hypertension can be controlled by meditation and yoga alone.
· In some cases, where the blood pressure is alarmingly high, doctors advise the patients to go for strong medication without any physical exertion to avoid the threat of organs getting harmed.
· In cases where the cause of hypertension is related to genes or heredity, the only scope of the remedy is medication. Althoughmeditation and yoga might help to calm the mind, they will be of not much use in reducing the blood pressure.
· People tend to skip meditation citing lack of time and illness as reasons which will hamper the process of reducing the blood pressure.
A lot of analysis has been done on hypertensive patients who are given only medication and on those who are given mindfulness meditation and yoga in addition to the medication. The inference of those studies is clearly in favor of adding stress reduction programs for the treatment of hypertension. Not only as an addition, in some cases they can be taken as an alternative treatment of hypertension if the blood pressure is marginally higher and the cause is attributed to a specific issue that can be personal or professional. The studies have also shown that mindfulness meditation and yoga act as catalysts which can speed up the process of blood pressure reduction thus resulting in even more powerful and favorable results. So, why wait? Go to the nearest health center and enroll yourself for the stress reduction program involving mindfulness meditation and yoga and protect yourself and say goodbye to hypertension.