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Mindfulness therapy doesn’t lower blood pressure, Canadian study finds

mindfulness.jpgOct. 24, 2013 — A new study suggests that mindfulness therapy is not effective at lowering blood pressure.

Toronto researchers found that people who learned and applied the technique did not end up with lower blood pressure readings than people who did not use the approach.


October 24, 2013
By By Helen Branswell The Canadian Press

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Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a program that helps people learn
about their relationship with their thoughts, emotions, behaviours and
sensations.

The technique, which involves deep-breathing
techniques also used in yoga
, has been shown to be effective in helping
to control anxiety and cancer-related pain.

Senior author Dr.
Sheldon Tobe says he was surprised mindfulness did not result in lower
blood pressure, because cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to
be useful in hypertension.

In fact, studies of cognitive
behavioural therapy suggest it lowers blood pressure on average as well
as a single hypertension drug at a starting dose would do.

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"That’s
a good drop in blood pressure. And that kind of blood pressure drop
will lead to a reduction in heart attack and stroke over time," said
Tobe, a nephrologist (kidney specialist) at Sunnybrook Health Sciences
Centre, a University of Toronto teaching hospital.

The study, by
researchers from the University of Toronto and York University, was
published recently in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Tobe admitted the research team expected mindfulness-based stress reduction, or MBSR, would be effective.

"It
seemed very promising for us," said Tobe, whose work is funded by the
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario. "I was disappointed. I really
thought it was going to work."

In the trial, 101 adults in the
early stages of a blood pressure problem were randomly assigned to
either take the eight-week mindfulness program or not. In addition to
attending weekly classes on MBSR, participants had to do homework —
practise the technique out of class. They also had to keep a log of
their efforts.

Then, at 12 weeks after the start of the study,
blood pressure readings from the participants were compared to their
blood pressure from the start of the study. There were no differences
between the two groups.

After the first round of the study, the
group that hadn’t initially taken the course was taught the technique
and their blood pressure levels were measured after 12 weeks. That gave
the researchers both before and after data, and gave them a larger pool
of results to compare.

But there was still no difference, Tobe
said. "As a stand-alone (treatment) for people who have high blood
pressure, who are not yet on drug therapy, MBSR as a kind of… therapy
was not effective at blood pressure lowering."


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