Meditation refers to a family of practices that may share many similarities, but can have differences in underlying methods and goals. Religious and spiritual associations are common but are not requisite for meditation practice and it should be recognized that the basis of many if not all practices is the training of the brain and body, a process that appears to have profound effects on both structure and function. In recent decades there has been interest regarding the effects of these ancient practices on the cardiovascular system, as meditation has intuitive appeal for benefit in this area. Though there is a relative shortage of quality data, available evidence suggests that meditation may exert beneficial effects on autonomic tone, autonomic reflexes, and decrease blood pressure acutely and after long term practice. In addition, meditation has the potential to positively influence the cardiovascular system through the mind-heart connection and the anti-inflammatory reflex. There is limited but promising data to suggest that meditation based interventions can have beneficial effects on patients with established cardiovascular disease. More high quality and unbiased studies of meditation practices on relevant endpoints in cardiovascular disease are needed, including the effects of such practices on inflammation, baseline heart rate variability, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, and cardiovascular mortality.
Keywords: Autonomic dysfunction; Cardiovascular disease; Inflammation; Meditation; Mind–heart connection.
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