You already know the overwhelming benefits of exercise for your health, and your heart health in particular. We are all well aware by now that the more we move, the stronger and more resilient our hearts become and the more efficiently all of our bodies’ processes work. However, as counterintuitive as it may seem, there are also health benefits to be gained from slowing down – specifically in the form of meditation and deep breathing.
How Does Meditation Work?
Meditation is a practice of mindfulness that helps bring mental focus, a sense of calm, and a mind/body connection to practitioners. It is typically practiced while in a comfortable, seated position with the eyes closed. While in this position, the practitioner focuses on the inhale and exhale of their breath, a mental image or repetition of a word or phrase, attempting to quiet the mind of other thoughts and relax the body throughout the process.
While this is the standard method for meditation, there are other ways to gain the mental clarity and health benefits the practice has to offer without sitting still. For those who find it difficult to remain in a seated position or to effectively quiet their mind, practices such as yoga or tai chi can offer similar benefits.
What Does Meditation do for the Heart?
Many studies have been conducted regarding the cardiovascular benefits of undertaking a meditation practice. Among the key findings are positive connections between meditation and factors such as heart rate variability (HRV).
HRV is a measurement of how efficiently your heart is able to make adjustments in between beats. A higher HRV is commonly associated with a healthier heart, while a low HRV is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Regularly practicing meditation has been shown as an effective means to increase HRV.
In addition to HRV, meditation helps bring down cortisol (stress hormone) levels and reduces blood pressure, both significant factors in heart health. While even a single meditation practice can cause a temporary drop in these things, a regular, maintained practice can help them stay at lower, healthier levels for the long run.
If you are interested in learning more about your own heart health and ways you can keep it protected, contact Cardiovascular Institute of the South, and request an appointment with any of our many highly-trained cardiologists.