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Mind-body therapies such as meditation, yoga and guided imagery reduce hypertension

30 Aug

A team from Yale conducts a systematic review of the literature and finds that mind-body therapies such as meditation, yoga and guided imagery are effective in reducing hypertension, with yoga having the strongest effect.

Dr. Ather Ali & his colleagues, of the Prevention Research Center, Yale School of Medicine, conducted a systematic review to assess the efficacy of mind-body therapies (MBT) versus placebo or active control in the treatment of hypertension or high blood pressure. The main outcome measures include change in systolic and diastolic blood pressure pre- and post-intervention period.

Ali’s team reviewed randomized, or quasi-randomized, controlled trials comparing mind-body techniques alone or in combination with conventional treatment to conventional treatment alone or no intervention/waiting list control.


Participants in these trials were men and non-pregnant women, greater than 18 years of age with hypertension defined as a systolic blood pressure of greater than 140 mm Hg and/or diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 mm Hg.

The types of intervention undertaken by the study participants were mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga, and guided imagery techniques.

The review and synthesis of 12 published randomized trials found largely favorable effects of the most popular mind-body therapies on systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Mind-Body Therapies significantly reduced systolic blood pressure by a mean 11.52 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.83 mm Hg.

Of the three mind-body therapies analyzed, yoga therapies demonstrated results of the greatest magnitude, with mean SBP reductions of 19.07 mm Hg and DBP by 13.13 mm Hg. Significant results were seen in SBP reductions by yoga and meditation therapy, while only yoga therapies demonstrated significant reductions in DBP.

The absolute reductions in blood pressure were comparable to pharmacologic therapy in both effect size and temporality. Additionally, reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure to the degree found in yoga interventions were associated with reductions in vascular death rates as well as decreased overall cardiac risk.

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award