Meditation can lower and regulate your heart rate and blood pressure
The physiological effects of meditation include a reduction in stress hormones and adrenaline, improved breathing and blood flow to the brain, and improved melatonin regulation. Two more benefits, a reduced heart rate and lower blood pressure, have encouraged doctors to increasingly recommend meditation to improve heart health and decrease the risk of heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
How blood pressure varies
Blood pressure is a measure of the strength of each heart beat. When we’re stressed, our body produces hormones which increase blood pressure. Blood vessels narrow and the heart beats faster. Stress hormones may contribute to arterial damage over time. In addition, when blood pressure remains high, risk for heart disease goes up.
A resting heart rate between 60-100 beats per minute is a common indicator of good health. When your heart is strong and healthy, it doesn’t need to beat as often, and it keeps a regular pace. Like blood pressure, pulse temporarily increases in response to exertion, emotion, and stress.
Once the trigger has subsided, a healthy heart quickly slows down again. A resting heart beat that remains high is correlated with heart disease and premature death.
How meditation promotes heart health
Meditation does more than relax the mind, it has a positive physiological impact on our bodies. Meditation down regulates the hormonal response to stress by decreasing cortisol and epinephrine. In addition, meditation increases heart rate variability. HRV signals healthy heartbeat regulation.
The following are just 3 of several studies linking meditation to heart health:
- Meditation & Heart Rate Variability
A 2013 study by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia found meditation improves HRV, a marker of physical and mental health. After spending 10 intensive days learning how to meditate, meditation improved the heart’s responsiveness.
- Meditation & Blood Pressure
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science followed stressed college students through a 6-week meditation program. Throughout the 6 weeks, blood pressure and pulse decreased significantly from pre-meditation to post-meditation.
- Meditation & Heart Rate
The American Journal of Biomedical Science and Research recently published a 2021 study on the effect of meditation on heart rate. As you meditation experience grows, not only does your heart beat slower with meditation, but it becomes more consistent. These positive results mean meditation may be beneficial in preventing heart disease.
How to meditate to lower heart rate
Some types of meditation are more effective than others at lowering heart rate. Meditations which focus on steady, controlled breathing are especially useful for bringing about a slower, more consistent heart rate.
With mindfulness meditation, we can use the breath, the body, or the heart-beat itself as an anchor for our wandering mind. Anytime we notice the mind has wandered, we gently and kindly return to the anchor, without pausing to judge.
An increased heart rate while meditating could indicate a trauma response. In meditation, as the chatter of the mind becomes increasingly quiet, pain that we’ve long pushed aside may rise to the surface. To keep the heart rate slow and controlled, it can be helpful to work with a trauma-informed meditation guide.
In general, awareness of the heart beat can be a useful tool during any meditation. By learning to listen to the heart, we can better tell when we’re stressed or relaxed. Regularly checking in with the body this way can help draw our awareness to what triggers a spike in heart rate or blood pressure in the first place.
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