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Staying active is one of the best ways to keep your heart healthy.
That’s because when you move your body regularly, you get better blood flow to and from your heart, develop a healthy resting heart and strengthen your heart muscle.
But what about sitting? How bad is it for your heart?
Up until now, you’ve probably heard that sitting seriously sabotages your heart health, and it may even double your heart disease risk. But that’s not always the case. There’s one instance when sitting is actually great for your heart…
When you’re meditating.
Meditate for a healthy heart
It’s time to dig out that meditation cushion and sit in the name of good heart health because a recent review of research conducted by the American Heart Association found that sitting meditation seems to lower your risk for heart disease.
Researchers examined various studies on meditation and heart disease, and they determined that meditation:
- Decreases stress, anxiety and depression
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps people stop smoking
- Lowers the risk of heart attack
So basically, sitting and meditating every day can help you overcome several crucial risk factors for heart disease, and maybe even lower your risk of having a heart attack. Amazing!
Of course, researchers are quick to warn that there have only been a few studies on meditation and heart attack risk. The results were promising, but more research is needed to know for sure if meditation lowers heart attack risk.
But, since meditation is safe and free, the American Heart Association is encouraging people to start meditating anyway. So why wait? Meditation has a bunch of other proven health benefits, after all.
The AHA’s research review only included sitting forms of meditation like Samatha; Vipassana (Insight Meditation); Mindful Meditation; Zen Meditation (Zazen); Raja Yoga; Loving-Kindness (Metta); Transcendental Meditation; and Relaxation Response.
It didn’t include moving meditative practices like yoga and Tai Chi, because researchers didn’t want to skew the results by throwing exercise into the mix — something that’s already proven to improve heart health. Of course, those practices have major heart benefits too.
Starting a sitting meditation
So if you’ve been meaning to start a meditation practice but just haven’t gotten around to it, there’s no better time.
Your first step is to figure out what type of meditation you want to practice. As you can tell from the list of meditation styles included in the AHA’s research, there are a lot of ways to practice meditation. Finding the one that’s right for you might be a process of trial and error.
In the beginning, you may want to keep your meditation practice simple…
Just sit and focus on your breath. You don’t need to change your breath in any way. Just breathe naturally. Observe your inhale and exhale. Every time you notice your thoughts wandering, calmly bring your attention back to your breath again. Set a timer on your phone for 10 to 15 minutes, and keep bringing your attention back to your breath until the timer goes off. And voila! You just meditated!
You could also practice meditation using a mantra (a phrase you focus on during your meditation). Here are five healing mantra meditations you can try. But whatever type of meditation you choose, be sure to practice daily for a calmer mind and a healthier heart.
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- 7 Habits for a Healthy Heart — The New York Times
- Meditation might be useful addition to heart-healthy lifestyle and medical treatment — MedicalXpress
- N. Levine, et al. “Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association.” — Journal of the American Heart Association. Oct. 2017; (6):10.