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Can yoga lower blood pressure?

October 23, 2013

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A Sunnybrook study has found that stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation have no effect on patients with high-normal blood pressure not yet taking medication.

The randomized HARMONY study, looked at 101 patients aged 20 to 75 years of age with an average blood pressure of 135/82 mm Hg, considered above normal but not classified as high blood pressure. Half of the participants were assigned to eight-week group sessions in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy and half were on the wait-list to participate in the therapy at a later date.

"Our motivation was to see if stress reduction and relaxation techniques have an impact on patients with high normal blood pressure, or stage 1 hypertensive patients, not receiving medication," explains Dr. Sheldon Tobe, principal investigator of the study and nephrologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. "There was virtually no difference between the two groups in their blood pressure after eight weeks."

Participants' blood pressure was measured at 15-minute intervals during the day and at 30-minute intervals at night using an automated blood pressure measurement device called a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitor. In addition to the mindfulness group sessions and a six-hour silent retreat, participants were asked to practice stress reduction for 45 minutes daily. Information on lifestyle adjustments, such as smoking cessation, increasing exercise, cutting back on salt and reducing alcohol consumption, were also provided.

"Medication remains our most powerful line of treatment for high blood pressure," says Dr. Tobe. "At the same time, that doesn't mean that meditation is a bad thing, most participants reported feeling better."

Study authors are curious in seeing more research into the effect of mindfulness therapy on patients with high blood pressure who are already on medication. "In previous studies showing that stress reduction and relaxation therapies lower blood pressure, all participants were already on medication. It's possible that mindfulness therapy improved adherence to drug therapy," adds Dr. Tobe.

Doctor checking blood pressure

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Yoga and meditation without medication do not lower blood pressure

TORONTO, October 23, 2013 - A Sunnybrook study has found that stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation have no effect on patients with high-normal blood pressure not yet taking medication.

The randomized HARMONY study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, looked at 101 patients aged 20 to 75 years of age with an average blood pressure of 135/82 mm Hg, considered above normal but not classified as high blood pressure.  Half of the participants were assigned to eight-week group sessions in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) therapy and half were on the wait-list to participate in the therapy at a later date.

"Our motivation was to see if stress reduction and relaxation techniques have an impact on patients with high normal blood pressure, or stage 1 hypertensive patients, not receiving medication," explains Dr. Sheldon Tobe, principal investigator of the study and nephrologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.  "There was virtually no difference between the two groups in their blood pressure after eight weeks."

Participants' blood pressure was measured at 15-minute intervals during the day and at 30-minute intervals at night using an automated blood pressure measurement device called a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitor.  In addition to the mindfulness group sessions and a six-hour silent retreat, participants were asked to practice stress reduction for 45 minutes daily.  Information on lifestyle adjustments, such as smoking cessation, increasing exercise, cutting back on salt and reducing alcohol consumption, were also provided.

"Medication remains our most powerful line of treatment for high blood pressure," says Dr. Tobe.  "At the same time, that doesn't mean that meditation is a bad thing, most participants reported feeling better."

Study authors are curious in seeing more research into the effect of mindfulness therapy on patients with high blood pressure who are already on medication.  "In previous studies showing that stress reduction and relaxation therapies lower blood pressure, all participants were already on medication.  It's possible that mindfulness therapy improved adherence to drug therapy," adds Dr. Tobe.

The study was supported by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

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