Meditation and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Reduction for Women

By Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum | Posted Jun 6, 2024

Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in the United States. We must be proactive in caring for our hearts. While exercise and a balanced diet are key components of a healthy lifestyle, studies have shown that mindfulness practices, including meditation, can also help women lower their risk of heart disease. 

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Mindful meditation may lower women’s cardiovascular disease risk.

The scientific evidence regarding the benefits of meditation on cardiovascular health is growing. A study by Harvard University researchers found that mindful meditation was associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in women. The study involved over 50,000 female participants aged 45-84 who had no prior history of heart disease or stroke. The researchers followed up with the participants over eight years. They found that those who practiced mindful meditation had significantly lower rates of cardiovascular events compared to those who did not meditate.

Mindfulness tools can also improve heart rate variability (HRV).

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of how well the body’s cardiovascular system adjusts to changing demands or stressors. Higher values indicate healthier functioning hearts. In fact, a person with low HRV had a 32 to 45 percent higher risk of stroke or heart attack even though they didn’t have heart disease. Meditation has been shown by research to positively impact a person’s HRV. 

Another study published in 2019 found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs were associated with improved HRV. This measurement is an important indicator of overall heart health. In this study, MBSR practitioners showed higher levels of HRV than non-practitioners after just three months, suggesting that regular mindfulness practice can have immediate beneficial effects on the body’s cardiovascular system.

Finally, a systematic review conducted in 2018 concluded that substantial evidence supports the use of meditation as a tool for reducing stress and anxiety in people with heart disease. This review also noted that meditation may be beneficial for improving other aspects of physical health, including blood pressure and cholesterol profiles.


Where can you start?

It can seem daunting to start meditating when you’ve never or rarely done it before. And it’s certainly not helpful to have a mindfulness-based stress reduction program to increase your stress. That’s why it’s important to start with small goals, like meditating for five minutes twice a week. Once you feel more comfortable, you can increase the frequency and the amount of time you’re meditating.

There is significant evidence to support the use of mindful meditation as a tool for reducing risk factors associated with cardiovascular diseases in women. Research shows that regular practice leads to reduced stress and anxiety levels while improving HRV and other measures related to physical health. 

If you’re working to improve your cardiovascular health, consider adding mindful meditation into your routine. Your body and mind will thank you!