After being diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension, I turned to alternative health practices to complement my pulmonary hypertension treatments, (affectionately known by friends and family as boner pills). Sorry if that offends anyone, but I had a good laugh after my heart cath, when a doctor came over with the cutest little sample-size of Cialis for me to take home! Prior to this, I had only seen Cialis commercials, with happy men singing on their way to work. (Cialis is an approved treatment for enlarged prostates.)
A naturopath recommended meditation in combination with a few other lifestyle changes. I wasn’t sure meditation was right for me. Truthfully, it sounded boring. Was someone seriously prescribing me 15 minutes of solitude while sitting on a weird pillow, listening to ambient chimes and trying to erase my thoughts? To me, meditation sounded like punishment. Living in the digital world, I am constantly busy checking emails (or looking at cute dogs on Instagram). How was I supposed to shut everything off for at least 15 minutes?
I left my naturopath appointment feeling completely overwhelmed; having to change my entire diet, and learn how to sit in silence with myself. She explained some of the benefits of meditation to me, but it still felt like a weird concept. However, it felt like the practice of meditation kept popping up in all the self-help books, TV shows, and news/research articles I came across. — practically slapping me in the face. It was time to finally buckle down and meditate.
Can mindfulness and meditation help with your overall health?
The Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA Internal Medicine, published a study about meditation in March 2014. The findings suggested that meditation can offer some help to people who suffer from depression, anxiety and pain. Newer research is focusing on the mind/body connection, and how mindfulness can influence changes within the body.
Dr. Dean Ornish, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, has conducted studies where he included a holistic approach to heart health, including the practice of meditation along with stress management, exercise and diet. He offers on a website a lifestyle program that includes meditation as a way to help reverse fatty plaque buildup in the coronary artery.
Deepak Chopra, an MD turned mindfulness guru, has spent much of his career explaining the benefits of meditation. According to Chopra, some of these benefits include:
• reducing coritisol (a stress hormone) levels found in the blood
• helping rebalance and regulate biochemicals after being exposed to stress
• helping to release oxytocin and dopamine, two biochemicals that help with de-stressing
• reducing stress-related symptoms, such as high blood pressure
• helping to reduce blood pressure, dilate blood vessels, and slow down heart rate (related to stress) in the average person
It is important to note that the affects of meditation for pulmonary hypertension patients is unknown. Much of the research out there was conducted on the general population. Many patients with pulmonary hypertension suffer from high blood pressure in the pulmonary system, which differs than regular hypertension.
However, more and more studies are being done to measure the effects of mindfulness and meditation on cancer patients. Some studies show that meditation can help cancer patients reduce the depression and anxiety they experience, improve their concentration and mood, and also help boost their immune system. A study conducted in 2000 found that cancer patients who meditated experienced 67% less mood disturbances and 31% less stress symptoms than those who did not meditate.
While it is possible that meditation could help with some symptoms related to pulmonary hypertension, I think it is important to note its benefits for managing stress. Stress can have a very powerful and negative affect on anyone’s one body.
I have found that stress can make my pulmonary hypertension symptoms feel worse, and stress management is another way to take care of myself. I may not be able to avoid stress, but meditation certainly helps me to calm down more quickly.
Let’s face it, living with a disease like pulmonary hypertension can be very stressful. I can feel my heart rate go on up every time a doctor’s name appears in an incoming call to my phone! Life in general can be full of stressers, from driving home during rush-hour to waiting to hear the results from your last echo. This is why meditation may be something to incorporate into your daily routine.
Please look out for my next post where I will discuss different types of meditation, along with some meditation tips.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.