Background: Psychosocial stress has been implicated in the disproportionately higher rates of hypertension among African Americans. This randomized controlled trial compared the effects of two stress reduction techniques and a health education control program on hypertension during a period of 1 year in African-American men and women (N = 150, mean age 49 +/- 10 years, mean blood pressure (BP) = 142/95 mm Hg) at an urban community health center.
Methods: Interventions included 20 min twice a day of Transcendental Meditation (TM) or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), or participation in conventional health education (HE) classes. All subjects continued usual medical care. Outcomes assessed were systolic BP and diastolic BP at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months after treatment, analyzed by repeated measures ANCOVA.
Results: The TM group showed decreases in systolic BP/diastolic BP of -3.1/-5.7 mm Hg compared to -0.5/-2.9 mm Hg for PMR or HE, (P = .12 to .17 for systolic BP, P = .01 for diastolic BP). In addition the TM group demonstrated reduced use of antihypertensive medication relative to increases for PMR (P = .001) and HE (P = .09) groups. Group analysis by gender showed that women practicing TM had decreased BP (-7.3/-6.9 mm Hg) significantly more than women practicing PMR (0.7/-2.7 mm Hg) or HE (-.07/-3.0 mm Hg) (P .01 to .03). The change in men praticing TM (0.2 /-4.7 mm Hg) was greater than men practicing HE (-0.9/-2.0 mm Hg) for diastolic BP only (P = .09,) and not different from PMR men (-2.0/-3.1).
Conclusions: A selected stress reduction approach, the Transcendental Meditation program, may be useful as an adjunct in the long-term treatment of hypertension in African Americans.