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Transform your heart health with mindfulness meditation

Julia Park
Hand over heart

We all know the importance of protecting our hearts. We do all the “right things” to keep our hearts healthy but it’s often easier said than done. It’s hard enough to keep on top of daily stress, and all of life’s to-do’s without worrying about how your heart’s doing! 

But these small and seemingly insignificant choices can add up in the long run. Finding heart-healthy ways to cope with stress, which *spoiler alert* is one of the top 5 contributors to heart disease, according to the Harvard Medical School. It’s essential to keep your heart strong for the future.

Read on to learn all about heart health and how meditation, and using your Muse headband, could improve your heart.

Reasons why heart health is important

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number one leading cause of death around the world, with about 17.9 million people passing away from CVDs each year. 

CVD refers to a collection of disorders related to problems with the heart and blood vessels, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Atherosclerosis (the build-up of plaque in artery walls, which causes arteries to narrow and can lead to high blood pressure)
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Heart failure
  • Arrhythmia
  • Heart valve issues

As reported by the WHO, four out of every five heart disease deaths involve heart attacks or strokes. An astonishing 33% of these deaths occur “prematurely” in people under 70 years old.

What’s damaging to your heart?

Part of what sets heart disease apart from other disorders is that, while there is a genetic component, a lot of heart health comes down to lifestyle habits that add up over time.

A prolific study by the Harvard Medical School examined the occurrence of four unhealthy habits and their relationship to heart health across 4,900 men and women in Scotland, England, and Wales.

These four habits were: 

  • Smoking
  • Drinking more than 21 alcoholic beverages per week for men or 14 per week for women
  • Low intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Low physical activity

Researchers found that individuals who had just one of the above habits “were 85% more likely to have died during the 20-year study” compared to people who didn’t have any of these habits. In other words, the rise in mortality for people who practiced all four unhealthy habits amounted to a 349% higher risk.

These researchers also found that the bodies of these individuals appeared to be 12 years older than their actual age.

Another long-term study found that women who didn’t smoke ate a balanced diet, were a healthy weight, and had one alcoholic beverage every other day were 82% less likely to have passed away from CVD or a heart attack by the end of the 14-year study.

Man exercising

How to improve your overall heart health

Widely considered one the leading experts on heart health, the American Heart Association (AHA)  suggests nine key lifestyle changes to support your heart.

  • Stop smoking tobacco
  • Reduce your alcohol intake
  • Prioritize nutrient-rich foods (and avoid highly processed foods, high-sugar intake, and red meats)
  • Improve your cholesterol (which can be affected by diet and exercise)
  • Lower your blood pressure (reduce your salt intake and increase physical activity)
  • Maintain a healthy weight (this is unique to the individual, so be sure to consult with your physician to determine what a “healthy weight” means for you)
  • Increase physical activity (aim for 30-60 minutes a day)

How meditating could help your heart

Meditation is the practice of training your focus or exploring your thoughts, emotions, and experiences with an attitude of non-judgmental acceptance

It's a tool that many find invaluable for managing stress, fostering relaxation, and grounding themselves in the present. This practice not only aids in recognizing internal impulses and cravings but also supports healthier daily decision-making.

Particularly, mindfulness meditation has demonstrated significant benefits in heart health. A study revealed that nearly half of the participants experienced a substantial decrease in levels of depression and anxiety when practicing mindful meditation within just three months.

Moreover, the application of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) meditation has been linked to impressive improvements among individuals with cardiovascular conditions, showing a 35% enhancement in self-efficacy and a 39% improvement in quality of life.

Adopting a regular meditation routine can offer multiple pathways to reducing the risk of heart disease. It can help in several key areas, including:

  • Reduce stress (This can affect blood pressure, dietary habits, and even your motivation to exercise)
  • Be more present and conscious in making healthy choices during the day (Being mindful of cravings, creating space to make different dietary choices, or helping with unhealthy habits like smoking or alcohol consumption)
  • Improve heart rate variability (HRV). This refers to how fast your heart makes small adjustments in between heartbeats (A high HRV is associated with a healthier heart)
  • Support healthy heart rate and blood pressure

The research on meditation on heart health

Meditation, while not a 100% protective cure, has proven to support several indicators of heart health, according to various studies. 

Blood pressure

Research conducted by the American Heart Association found that meditation lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 4.7 milligrams of mercury (mm Hg) and 3.2 mm Hg, respectively. The study found modest evidence to suggest it could support heart health.

Further studies have shown that MBSR not only helps patients significantly decrease blood pressure but also improves stress management and emotional regulation. 

These findings reinforce the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions as tools for those at risk of hypertension. They offer both physical and mental benefits, helping in the reduction of anxiety, depression, and psychological distress.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

One small study took a different approach, exploring the value of meditation through its effect on heart variability. Over the course of a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat participants meditated for five minutes a day. Researchers found that compared to those who didn’t meditate, these individuals had a better HRV by the end of the retreat than those who didn’t.

It’s important to note the direct link between meditation and the prevention of heart disease is not definitively established, but studies have proven its beneficial role. With minimal to no adverse effects associated with beginning a meditation practice, experts advocate for its inclusion as a significant complementary tool in a comprehensive approach to heart health. 

This suggests that incorporating meditation, especially MBSR, into daily routines could be a key strategy in supporting overall heart wellbeing. Try a beginner-friendly MBSR meditation today, like the body scan meditation.

Woman meditating

Getting started with meditations for your heart

  1. Find a place where you can relax, lay down or sit quietly, and focus your attention inward.

  2. With your eyes closed, begin following the path of your breath as you inhale and exhale.

  3. Be gentle and curious. Allow yourself to explore the different sensations within your body, then let them go.

  4. If thoughts or emotions pop up, do your best to view them from the outside and how they make you feel rather than getting swept up by them. Then, let them go and return to your breath.

  5. You may choose to focus solely on your breath, on a mantra, a mental image, or nothing at all. Choose whatever is comfortable for you.

  6. You can go as long as you like, but if you’re new to meditation and mindfulness, try starting with just five minutes.

Elevate your heart meditation practice with the Muse 2 or Muse S headbands, trusted by neuroscientists and clinicians for their impressive 92% accuracy in detecting perceived stress.

Experience the heart biofeedback meditations on our app, which offers an immersive experience that guides you to relaxation. During your heart meditations, you will hear sounds that intensify when your heart rate increases. As your heart rate slows down, you will hear a peaceful tempo that calms your heart, providing instant feedback on your emotional, physical, and focus shifts during each session.

Take the first step towards heart wellness and achieving inner peace with meditation. Let Muse be your guide to a calmer, more centered you.

If you're struggling with meditation, here's a quick guide to become a meditator, only in 11 days! 

Get Ready to Experience More Calm & Focus in Your Life With Muse

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