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After a A woman wonders if mind-body methods can reverse coronary disease.

18 Jan
After a stress test reveals "mild to moderate ischemia", a woman wonders if mind-body methods such as guided imagery, transcendental meditation, hypnosis, yoga and stress management training can actually reverse coronary artery disease.

Dear Belleruth,

Can guided imagery, transcendental meditation, hypnosis, yoga and stress management training reverse coronary artery disease?

I had a stress-test last week that said I have "mild to moderate ischemia." I do not have symptoms except my cholesterol is 214 and my LDL is just above normal. My cardiologist was surprised by the results and suggested a cholesterol lowering medication and heart catheterization which I declined at this time. I am going for further non-invasive assessment.

I realized this holiday season that I have not managed numerous stressors in my life and feel the blockage is very likely related to my anger and depression. I am increasing my exercise and can tweak my diet to modify my unhealthy fat intake. I am looking for professional mental help and yoga classes.

Can you tell me what you know that would be helpful to me? Thank you so much for your time and assistance.

Caroline T.

PS-my buddy-in-life and I used your CD when he had cancer surgery last year. It was very helpful for both of us; cancer is gone!

Dear Caroline,

Way back in the 80’s, Dean Ornish’s research established that by changing lifestyle, we could reverse coronary artery disease. This was pretty shocking at the time, but subsequent studies have made this idea pretty much old hat. At first Ornish put the most stock in getting dietary fat intake down to a measly 10 grams a day. Later he modified his emphasis, stating that he thought reducing stress with meditation, imagery, yoga and other mind-body approaches might be the most potent lifestyle change of all. Either way, the general conclusion was that the interaction of diet modification, exercise and mind-body stress reduction methods are a winning combination that produces impressive, statistically significant results. A new study published in 2007 with a nice, fat sample size of 869 men and women reiterates this finding ( Daubenmier JJ, Weidner G, Sumner MD, Mendell N, Merritt-Worden T, Studley J, Ornish D. The contribution of changes in diet, exercise, and stress management to changes in coronary risk in women and men in the multisite cardiac lifestyle intervention program. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2007 Feb; 33 (1): pages 57-68.)

So the answer to your question is a resounding "YES!". Since you already know you respond well to guided imagery, you might want to try our Healthy Heart CD, or our Relieve Stress; or Emmett Miller’s Down with High Blood Pressure or his 10-Minute Stress Manager. Additionally, and for variety, there’s also Andy Weil’s Breathing: The Master Key to Self-Healing ; Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Guided Mindfulness Meditation; and any number of our Yoga resources . All of these methods are effective - it’s just a matter of personal preference and having a sufficient variety of resources to keep you interested and involved.

I’d also get a second opinion from a different cardiologist to see if there’s any immediate reason for having such an invasive procedure as a cardiac catheterization at this time.

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