Against anxiety? To have important benefits, a single session of mindfulness meditation is enough, also capable of counteracting the damage that anxiety itself causes on the cardiovascular level. This is what emerges from a research performed by an American team from Michigan Technological University and presented a couple of years ago at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society held in San Diego in April 2018 (Durocher et al, the Experimental Biology meeting, San Diego April 21-25 2018).
The risks of anxiety
Anxiety is one of the most widespread disorders in the world. This condition, when excessive, not only worsens the quality of life but can also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, studies have shown that arterial stiffness can increase as a result of anxiety, stress and depression. Not only that, anxiety can cause an increase in blood pressure and, in the long term, damage to various organs such as the kidneys and brain. Indeed, recent studies have shown that high blood pressure values can pave the way for neurodegeneration (Kelly et al, Pract Neurol, 2020).
From here we understand the importance of keeping anxiety under control. But how can we act? Mindfulness meditation is a type of meditation that brings attention to breathing and awareness of one's thoughts. To understand if this type of meditation can have benefits on anxious states and thus on the heart, researchers have developed the research we are talking about today.
One hour of meditation is enough to get better immediately
14 adults with normal blood pressure values but with high levels of anxiety were recruited. The volunteers participated in a one-hour session of mindfulness meditation. Before and after this meditation session, the participants underwent medical examinations to measure cardiovascular functioning, and therefore heart rate, blood pressure, aortic blood pressure and stiffness of the arteries, as well as tests to assess the state of anxiety. What emerged was that even a single, short session of mindfulness meditation led to a significant reduction in anxiety in the hours following the session. Not only that, the data indicate a reduction in anxiety even in the week following the session. In addition, the mechanical tension to which the arteries were subjected following the high levels of anxiety was also decreased. This effect is noteworthy since it also means a reduction in stress, and therefore in possible damage, to organs such as the kidneys and brain.
Often, to feel good, you don't need to upset the rhythms of your life. Sometimes small changes are enough, such as the introduction of an hour of meditation per week, for example, which helps reduce anxiety and cardiovascular risk.