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Functional Medicine Explained
Categories: Holistic Medicine

Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction and Cardiac Disease

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The global death rate of cardiac diseases is 30%, despite all the medical advances and treatments. The main factors involved in these conditions are high blood pressure and cholesterol, obesity, tobacco use, family antecedents, limited physical activity. Recent studies have shown that psychological factors can contribute to the pathophysiology of cardiac disease. Therefore, the inclusion of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has recently been analyzed as it has shown positive effects on the reduction of blood pressure.

Stress Management

Studies have recently shown that psychological conditions such as depression, chronic stress, anger, hostility, anxiety, and social isolation are associated with the worsening effects of cardiac diseases. Furthermore, the effects of imbalanced sympathetic and parasympathetic functions are associated with tachycardia and increased blood pressure.

Nevertheless, cardiac disease treatment was centered on lifestyle changes, such as dietary modifications, monitoring glucose levels and HOMA, and medication to control hypertension and exercise. All of these previously mentioned and deeply studied interventions are currently accompanied by mindfulness-based stress reduction and spirituality.

Mindfulness, spirituality, and religiosity

To achieve the health benefits of mindfulness and spirituality doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be linked to religious practices. It has been found that the sense of belonging to something/someone of a higher order is the linkage between these benefits and different practices. For example, spirituality is defined as the belief linked to the mystical.  On the other hand, religiosity is defined as a set of beliefs and practices relating to the transcendent. In recent research, prayer and bible study have also been linked to lower levels of blood pressure, C-reactive protein, and mindfulness in yoga settings have been linked to a reduction in inflammatory markers.

Furthermore, MBSR has been compared to muscle relaxation therapy and their effect on systolic and diastolic blood pressure with favorable results on patients with borderline hypertension, depressive symptoms, anger anxiety, and body mass index. These previous findings are the ones that link mindfulness-based therapies to improved outcomes in CVD.

What are the attitudinal foundations of mindfulness?

Acceptance: Accept your own circumstances and what you are going through. Recognize that there are times that you can’t influence in the present situation. Mindfulness lets what is here be here.

 

Beginner’s mind: Letting yourself see things as if it was the first time, putting aside everything that you think you “know.” Apply this new way of seeing things in everything, everyone, and to yourself. Forget about the old versions and allow you to see things from a new perspective.

 

Letting go: Mindfulness allows you to let go of everything instead of trying to “hold on,” even if it is for a second. This is another way to accept things for what they are.

 

Non-judgement: Commit to the idea that you will not emit a judgment on your behaviors, past, persons, or yourself. Become aware of the experience and what you are thinking without labeling it or assigning a value. Mindfulness gives you get a glimpse of who you are and your situation without evaluation.

 

Non-Striving: Detach from the idea of an outcome or accomplishment. Allow yourself to be in the moment, just as it is. Be able to see life, people, and situations for what they are without the desire to make them better.

 

Patience: Live in the present moment and let things or situations unfold at their own pace. Be sure that things will arrive at the right time if you wait.

 

Trust: Trusting your intuition and authority, take responsibility for them. This foundation urges us to go inward and discover who we are and who we are becoming.

“Each moment missed is a moment unlived (and)…makes it more likely I will miss the next moment…cloaked in mindless habits of automaticity of thinking, feeling, and doing rather than living in, out of, and through awareness.” -Kabat-Zinn, 2005

Religiosity, Spirituality, and Mindfulness practices are being implemented as a part of medical education and as medical treatment. The benefits of inflammatory responses and clinical management of cardiovascular diseases linked to spiritual practices have been studied and confirmed. Furthermore, medical treatment, dietary changes, and exercise have to be included in this new care guideline to achieve better outcomes.

I know what you are thinking because I thought it too:

  • I can’t be mindful, I have a lot of things in my mind.
  • I will lose focus.
  • I will look like a zombie!
  • I don’t have the time.
  • I don’t believe it.

For all of those ideas, I have one single answer: let it be because it is.  You took the time to read this and we all need a fair share of MBSR in these difficult times. You might not be dealing with CVD, but the sense of isolation and stress can alter BP.  Being mindful takes practice and a lot of non-judgment, which is my favorite part. Nevertheless, the benefits are enormous. -Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega. Master in Clinical Nutrition

Lengacher, Cecile A., et al. “Mindfulness-based stress reduction in post-treatment breast cancer patients: an examination of symptoms and symptom clusters.” Journal of behavioral medicine 35.1 (2012): 86-94.

Momeni, Javad, et al. “The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on cardiac patients’ blood pressure, perceived stress, and anger: a single-blind randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the American Society of Hypertension 10.10 (2016): 763-771.

Anyfantakis, Dimitrios, et al. “Impact of religiosity/spirituality on biological and preclinical markers related to cardiovascular disease. Results from the SPILI III study.” Hormones 12.3 (2013): 386-396.

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