In a study on anxiety at the University of Massachusetts, for example, 20 out of 22 anxiety-prone volunteers showed marked improvement after taking an eight-week class in meditation. And in a study on headaches, 72 percent of headache sufferers reported “moderate to great” improvement after learning how to meditate. A small group of middle-school students who practiced transcendental meditation twice daily at school reduced their stress and anxiety by 50% and improved ADHD symptoms as well, according to a new study published in Current Issues in Education. The changes after three months were much more dramatic than researchers expected, including better attention, memory, organizational and behavioral skills, said lead researcher Sarina J. Grosswald. Women’s Health: Some remarkable benefits are possible for women who meditate regularly.
One study found that women with PMS (premenstrual syndrome) reduced their symptoms by 58%. Another study found that women going through menopause could significantly reduce the intensity of hot flashes. Even those women struggling with infertility can benefit: In a study of a 10-week group program that included meditation (along with exercise and nutrition changes), the women had significantly less anxiety, depression, and fatigue, and 34% became pregnant within six months. The heart has been the focus of hundreds of studies of meditation worldwide. Regular practice of meditation has been found to significantly reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. These reductions can endure over the long term: In one study, the reductions achieved during an eight-week program were still in place three years later.
Other studies have focused on meditation in relation to heart disease. For example, patients with coronary artery disease who meditated daily for eight months had nearly a 15% increase in exercise tolerance. Patients with ischemic heart disease (in which the heart muscle receives an inadequate supply of blood) who practiced for four weeks had a significantly lower frequency of premature ventricular contractions (a type of irregular heartbeat). Patients undergoing heart surgery can also reap the rewards of meditation. In one study, angioplasty patients who used meditation had significantly less anxiety, pain, and need for medication during and after the procedure. In another, those having open-heart surgery were able to reduce their frequency of abnormal heart rhythms.
Meditation Health Benefits
There’s also evidence that meditation has immune-enhancing effects. For example, medical students who meditated during final exams had a higher percentage of “T-helper cells,” the immune cells that trigger the immune system into action. Nursing-home residents trained in meditation had increased activity of “natural killer cells,” which kill bacteria and cancer cells. They also had reductions in the activity of viruses and emotional distress. Cancer patients have also experienced the benefits of meditation. In one study, patients with metastatic (spreading) cancer who meditated with imagery regularly for a year had significant increases in natural-killer cell activity. The latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that a practice that incorporates mindfulness meditation can boost attentiveness and improve mood while lowering stress in less than a week. After just five days of 20-minute sessions, students who meditated outscored their peers.
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