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Can Meditation Make Your Heart Healthier?

Above: Meditation practitioners who participated in a recent study using wireless technology to measuring their vital signs. Scripps Health researchers and The Chopra Center want to understand the scientific connection between meditation and heart health.

Aired 12/19/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST:

Dr. Steven Steinhubl is director of the Digital Medicine program at the Scripps Translational Science Institute.

Transcript

Many mainstream heart specialists advise their coronary patients to make changes in both their lifestyles and diets.

One of those recommendations may be taking up the practice of meditation. But unlike a pill or a surgical intervention, doctors can't actually explain the mechanics of how mediation helps to lower blood pressure or regulate one's heart beat.

A recent study conducted in San Diego is aimed at finding clinical evidence about what goes on in the body during meditation. It's a collaboration between Scripps Translational Science Institute and The Chopra Center for Wellbeing.

What's different about this study is that it was conducted using wireless technology.

In a press release about the study, Dr. Steven Steinhubl, director of the digital medicine program at the Scripps Translational Science Institute, said, "Wireless devices offer new ways to track blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs in a more discrete and non-disruptive way."

The 40 study participants were among a larger group who were attending a weeklong meditation retreat at The Chopra Center in Carlsbad. Scripps researchers measured the participants' vital signs through three separate wireless devices attached to their heads and chest during meditation practices at the beginning and the end of the retreat.

Steinhubl said all clinicians have different levels of beliefs on how well the mind works to heal the body, but it's not documented.

Steinhubl said this study has the potential for huge impact. He said it's an important first step to objectively show that mentally, you can affect your whole cardiovascular system and nervous system.

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