Posted on Nov 03, 2023, 4 p.m.
Practicing mindfulness, focused on eating more healthfully, can be good for the heart according to a recent study published in JAMA Network Open. The controlled 8-week mindfulness-based blood pressure reduction program study from Brown University shows that mindfulness helps to improve self-awareness as well as helps people to be able to adhere to a heart-healthy diet.
"Participants in the program showed significant improvement in adherence to a heart-healthy diet, which is one of the biggest drivers of blood pressure, as well as significant improvements in self-awareness, which appears to influence healthy eating habits," said lead study author Eric B. Loucks, an associate professor of epidemiology, behavioral and social sciences, and director of the Mindfulness Center at Brown University.
"Improvements in our self-awareness, of how different foods make us feel, of how our body feels in general, as well as our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations around eating healthy as well as unhealthy food, can influence people's dietary choices," said Loucks. "Almost everyone has the power to control blood pressure through changes in diet and physical activity, adherence to antihypertensive medications, minimizing alcohol intake and monitoring stress reactivity," he said.
The program trained the participants in skills such as self-awareness, meditation, yoga, emotion regulation, and attention control, as well as providing behavioral change support, and teaching the participants how to direct these skills toward lowering blood pressure. The program was led by trained instructors with expertise in the field of cardiovascular disease etiology, treatment, and prevention.
201 participants were divided into two groups, 101 in the 8-week BP mindfulness training group, and the remaining were in the control group receiving the usual care with educational brochures on controlling high blood pressure. Both groups were provided blood pressure monitoring devices with training on how to use them, and options for referrals to primary care physicians. Participants were encouraged to follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet which is a balanced healthy diet created to promote a heart-healthy eating style for life.
According to the researchers, after 6 months those in the mindfulness group showed a 0.34-point improvement in their DASH Diet scores, while those in the control group showed a -0.04-point change in their scores. Those in the mindfulness group also showed a 0.71-point improvement in the average interoceptive awareness scores which outperformed those in the control group by a significant 0.54 points. The authors note that these results offer evidence that an adapted mindfulness training program for those with high blood pressure focused on diet and self-awareness may help to significantly improve both.
"The program gives participants the tools to make heart-healthy diet changes that can lower their blood pressure and decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease," Loucks said.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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