Ancient roots - Modern applications: Mindfulness as a novel intervention for cardiovascular disease

Med Hypotheses. 2017 Oct;108:57-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Aug 4.

Abstract

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been associated with chronic psychological stress. Unremittent psychological stress causes dysregulation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal (HPA) axis, which collectively promotes inflammation, atherosclerosis, and subsequent CVD risk. Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, have been shown to improve some markers of HPA and SNS function at rest and in response to acute stressors, suggesting that such techniques, over time, may be cardioprotective. Therefore, it may be hypothesized that eight weeks of daily mindfulness meditation, compared to a non-mindful relaxation control, may provide a novel strategy to buffer stress responses in healthy and at-risk populations, thereby lowering the risk of chronic psychological stress and the associated CVD risk as measured by arterial stiffness. The current paper outlines methodological considerations for testing this hypothesis, including appropriate acute stressors, and measurement of SNS, HPA axis and cardiovascular function. If the hypothesis is correct, mindfulness meditation would complement healthy lifestyle techniques such as exercise and diet to prevent CVD risk.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Life Style
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness*
  • Models, Biological
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System