Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Immediate "Accelerated Resolution Therapy" Eases PTSD

When I worked with Vietnam era vets as a volunteer PTSD co-facilitator with the VA, the most common attribute of the men and women in our groups was the length of time it had been since the trauma that caused their distress.  Most often, it had been years since their experience.  As PTSD is known to be a slowly debilitating disease, the people we counseled were well established in the behavior and thought patterns of the illness.

Now it's found that an approach applied immediately after the event can be very effective in resolving the issues and prevent the long-term debilitation of PTSD.  Accelerated Resolution Therapy, or ART, is a brief, safe, and effective treatment for combat-related symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among veterans and U.S. service members, researchers at University of South Florida College of Nursing report in a new study. 

They found this newer treatment -- a combination of evidence-based psychotherapies and use of eye movements -- was shorter and more likely to be completed, than conventional therapies formally endorsed by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration.

Kevin Kip, PhD, FAHA, professor and executive director for the Research Center at the USF College of Nursing, led the team of scientists and clinicians who conducted the first randomized controlled trial of ART in a military population. The trial enrolled 57 service members and veterans, primarily from the Tampa Bay area.

"Based on this trial and an earlier study completed at the USF College of Nursing, we believe that accelerated resolution therapy may provide the quickest way to effectively and safely treat post-traumatic stress disorder," Dr. Kip said. "Our goal is to obtain enough evidence and interest to warrant classifying ART as a potential first-line treatment for PTSD among both civilian and military personnel."

"Dr. Kip's work on this project has been phenomenal," said Dianne Morrison-Beedy, PhD,  senior associate vice president of USF Health, and dean of the College of Nursing. "ART has been a cornerstone of RESTORE LIVES at USF Nursing as we continue developing research and education to advance the health care received by veterans, service members and their families."

ART works in two phases to alleviate psychological trauma symptoms and related disorders such as depression and anxiety.

  1. The patient first visualizes in his or her mind a prior traumatic experience which typically elicits uncomfortable physiological sensations like tightness of the chest, increased heart rate and sweating. Then, 
  2. through talk therapy and a series of rapid left-to-right eye movements in which the patient follows the clinician's hand back and forth, the sensations are minimized. In the second phase, and with similar clinician input, the patient "replaces" the distressing images they have seen with positive ones in a way that the original distressing images can no longer be accessed. 
ART is delivered in two to five one-hour sessions, requires no homework, and no written or verbal recall of the traumatic experience.

"Through this therapy, we're able to quiet down and separate physiological symptoms that come with re-envisioning a traumatic experience," Dr. Kip said. "We can also alter or replace the traumatic images and add positive material to them. We are changing how images are remembered in the brain."

It worked well for Brian Anderson, a former Green Beret, 10-year Army veteran and director of the Pasco County Veteran Services and Stand Down program. He had tried an endorsed first-line PTSD treatment known as prolonged exposure therapy, which was very lengthy and worked for a while, but then symptoms like hyper-vigilance returned.

"ART changed my life," Anderson said. "This brief therapy took the bad memories that constantly resurfaced and put them in the proper order or long-term storage; it was almost like I was thinking about a time in history. As a veteran, I would much rather go through a therapy that works, in only a few sessions, than sit through intensive and grueling sessions that last as long as 16 weeks."

PTSD is a prevalent, disabling disorder that can emerge following a life-threatening event or traumatic experience. Those experiences create chronic symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and loss of interest in life. According to PTSD Foundation of America, one in three troops returning from combat suffers PTSD symptoms, although less than 40 percent seek help. The organization also reports that at least five active duty military members attempt suicide every day.

"Accelerated resolution therapy is giving hope to many veterans who felt like they had no hope," said Lt. Col. (Ret.) Lawrence A. Braue, EdD, director of the USF Office of Veterans Services. "I look forward to the day when this treatment is widely available across the country. USF College of Nursing faculty and staff genuinely care about our veterans, and that means the world to any veteran."
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Story Source:  Kip, Kevin E.; Rosenzweig, Laney; Hernandez, Diego F.; Shuman, Amy; Sullivan, Kelly L.; Long, Christopher J.; Taylor, James; McGhee, Stephen; Girling, Sue Ann; Wittenberg, Trudy; Sahebzamani, Frances M.; Lengacher, Cecile A.; Kadel, Rajendra; and Diamond, David M. Randomized Controlled Trial of Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART) for Symptoms of Combat-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Military Medicine, Vol. 178, No. 12, December 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

As Life and Work Become One and the Same

Flexible workplaces may seem attractive when considering work-life balance but new research being published shows it's not unusual for firms to cash-in, profiting from our "free" time and non-professional aptitudes, experts warn.

Peter Fleming, Professor of Business and Society at Cass Business School, City University, London, UK, weighs the evidence for this shift in work culture in "When 'life itself' goes to work: Reviewing shifts in organizational life through the lens of biopower" in the current issue of the journal Human Relations, published by SAGE.

Liberation Management ~ Giving Employers Something for Nothing
In the past it was very clear where work stopped and play started -- managers at offices and factories encouraged a formal environment. Personal lives were left at the door as employees clocked in.

Today, jobs increasingly allow us to work flexible hours, yet we are expected to be responsive around the clock. Dubbed Liberation Management, the latest trend encourages us all to 'be ourselves' at work, dropping the formal, professional attitudes of the past. And workers looking for ideas or opinions free of charge can crowd-source them from the Internet.

Businesses are getting something for nothing, experts say.
Examining the dark side to today's apparent freedom and autonomy for workers, Fleming uses a concept known as biopower developed by French scholar, historian, and social theorist Michel Foucault, an expert in the workings of discipline and control. Foucault spoke about biopower in a series of 1970s lectures at the College de France, which have only recently been translated into English.

As long as a project deadline is met, firms don't care when, how and where the work is done -- be it in your underwear in the middle of the night or in a cafe on Monday morning, Fleming says. Today, managers often rely on aspects of life that were previously inappropriate at work.

This is a 'lifestyle approach' to management, where companies hope to get a better performance from employees by encouraging their everyday selves on the job. Largely seen in Western economies, this trend is linked to a decline in jobs focused on concrete or industrial tasks. Life skills, communication and organization skills, and emotional intelligence are now key.

If the onset of flu is coupled with relief that you can finally take a day for yourself, and you feel that your work is your life, blame this trend of always being at work, even when you aren't. The widely reported death of banking intern Moritz Erhadt following three days of non-stop work is perhaps an extreme example of what this trend can do to us: When work and life become blended to such an extent, even rest and sleep are considered a 'waste of time'.

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Moritz Erhardt at home on the day of his father Hans-Georg's 50th birthday in 2011.
Click here to read:
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"The Foucault lectures are astoundingly prescient in the way they concentrate on biopower as a sign of things to come," says Fleming. "Our jobs are no longer defined as something we do among other things, but what we are… Ominously, we are now permanently poised for work."
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Suggest reading ~

Story Source:  Peter Fleming. When 'life itself' goes to work: Reviewing shifts in organisational life through the lens of biopower. Human Relations, November 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

How Meditation Changes the Way Your Genes Express Themselves

Gene Expression Changes With Meditation
Meditators show genetic and molecular differences which in turn correlate with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.
With evidence growing that meditation can have beneficial health effects, scientists are working to understand how these practices physically affect the body. A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.

The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice," says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Meditation vs. Drugs to Reduce Inflammation
"Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs," says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.  The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Mindfulness-based training has shown beneficial effects on inflammatory disorders in prior clinical studies and are endorsed by the American Heart Association as a preventative intervention. The new results provide a possible biological mechanism for therapeutic effects.

Perhaps surprisingly, the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. Effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affects certain regulatory pathways.

"Our genes are quite dynamic in their expression and these results suggest that the calmness of our mind has a potential influence on their expression," Davidson says.
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Suggested reading ~

Story Source:  Materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. The original article was written by Jill Sakai, (2013, December 8). Gene expression changes with meditation. ScienceDaily.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Parental Stress Linked to Obesity in Children

Parental stress is linked to weight gain in children, according to a new study from St. Michael's Hospital.

The study found that children whose parents have high levels of stress have a Body Mass Index, or BMI, about 2 per cent higher than those whose parents have low levels of stress. Children with higher parental stress also gained weight at a 7 per cent higher rate during the study period than other children.

Those figures may sound low, said lead author Dr. Ketan Shankardass, but they're significant because they are happening in children, whose bodies and eating and exercise habits are still developing. Plus, if that weight gain continues and is compounded over a lifetime, it could lead to serious obesity and health issues.

Dr. Shankardass, a social epidemiologist with the hospital's Centre for Research on Inner City Health, studied data collected during the Children's Health Study, one of the largest and most comprehensive investigations into the long-term effects of air pollution on the respiratory health of children.

The childrens' BMI was calculated each year. Their parents were given a questionnaire to measure their perceived psychological stress that asked how often in the last month they were able or unable to control important things in their life and whether things were going their way or their difficulties were piling up so high they could not overcome them.

Dr. Shankardass said he believes this is the first study to link parental stress to weight gain in such young children. His research was published today in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

Dr. Shankardass, who is also an assistant professor in psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University, said it was not clear why the link between stress and obesity exists.

He said parents could change their behavior when they are stressed, to reduce the amount of physical activity in the household or increase the amount of unhealthy food available. Parental stress could also create stress for the children, who cope by eating more or exercising less, or whose stress leads to biological changes that cause weight gain, he said.

Dr. Shankardass said that rather than focusing only on getting parents to change their behavior, it would be useful to focus on interventions that can support families living in challenging conditions, such as making sure they have a reliable supply of healthy food, an opportunity to live in a nice neighbourhood and other financial or service resources to help cope with stress.

"Childhood is a time when we develop inter-connected habits related to how we deal with stress, how we eat and how active we are," Dr. Shankardass said. "It's a time when we might be doing irreversible damage or damage that is very hard to change later."

Dr. Shankardass noted that more than half the students followed in the California study were Hispanic, and that the effects of stress on their BMI was greater than children of other ethnic backgrounds. He said this was consistent with other research which has suggested that Hispanic children may be more likely to experience hypherphasia (excessive hunger or increased appetite) and sedentary lifestyle. Future research should consider other reasons that Hispanic children are more susceptible to parental stress, including differences in how Hispanic parents respond to stress or how Hispanic children perceive stressors or cope with stress.
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Story Source:  K. Shankardass, R. McConnell, M. Jerrett, C. Lam, J. Wolch, J. Milam, F. Gilliland, K. Berhane. Parental stress increases body mass index trajectory in pre-adolescents. Pediatric Obesity, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Children Likely to Develop PTSD If Mother Afflicted

A Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) study indicates that children are more likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) if their mother is already afflicted.

In the study published in the Journal of Depression & Anxiety, while fewer than 10 percent (8.4 percent) of the mothers were suffering from PTSD, more than a fifth (21 percent) of their children presented PTSD symptoms. Children who developed PTSD symptoms also had more psychosomatic complaints such as constipation, diarrhea and headaches.

"This study reinforces the existing body of knowledge regarding the importance of evaluating and treating parental responses in time of stress," the researchers explain.

"Parents are often the key to understanding children's responses generally and specifically in times of stress. The study also highlights the close interrelations between 'body and soul' among children and adults."

In the study, some 160 mothers of preschool children were interviewed about symptoms exhibited by their children and their own responses during Operation Cast Lead. More than 750 rockets were fired into Southern Israel from Gaza from December 2008 to January 2009.

Working with the Preschool Psychiatric Unit at Soroka University Medical Center, the BGU researchers examined the relationship between PTSD symptoms and socio-demographic, family attributes and psychosomatic symptoms among children exposed to Grad missile attacks in Beer-Sheva, Israel.
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Story Source:  materials provided by American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev(2013, November 27). Children significantly more likely to develop PTSD if mother afflicted. ScienceDaily.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

How to Protect Your Good Mood

Psychology shows that it doesn't take much to put you in a bad mood. Just reading the morning news can do it. And being in a bad mood slows your reaction time, and affects your basic cognitive abilities like speech, writing, and counting. If you read a depressing newspaper headline in the morning, you may perform worse at work throughout the day.

But new research out of Tel Aviv University reveals that repeated exposure to a negative event neutralizes its effect on your mood and your thinking.

The study, published in Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, shows that it's better to read the article all the way through and repeatedly expose yourself to the negative information. You will be freer to go on with your day in a better mood and without any negative effects.
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Suggest reading ~

Story Source:  Moshe Shay Ben-Haim, Yaniv Mama, Michal Icht, Daniel Algom. Is the emotional Stroop task a special case of mood induction? Evidence from sustained effects of attention under emotion. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mindfullness Helps Prevent Bad Habits. Good Habits, Too.

"Mindfulness may help prevent formation of all habits because a mindful person is aware of what they are doing."

The technique of mindful awareness is commonly used to help people reduce the effects of stress in their lives.  But does it do more as well?

New research out of Georgetown University reveals that being mindful appears to help prevent the formation of bad habits.  That's the good news.  Being mindful may also prevent good habits, as well.

In trying to unravel the impact of implicit learning have come up with this conclusion - which may not make sense -- at first.

Consider this: when testing who would do best on a task to find patterns among a bunch of dots many might think mindful people would score higher than those who are distracted.  Actually, researchers found the opposite: participants low on the mindfulness scale did much better on this test of implicit learning, or learning that occurs without awareness.

This outcome might be surprising until one considers that behavioral and neuroimaging studies suggest that mindfulness can undercut the automatic learning processes.

This study was aimed at examining how individual differences in mindfulness are related to implicit learning. "Our theory is that one learns habits -- good or bad -- implicitly, without thinking about them," Stillman says. "So we wanted to see if mindfulness impeded implicit learning."

That is what they found. Two samples of adult participants first completed a test that gauged their mindfulness character trait, and then they completed different tasks that measured implicit learning -- either the Triplet-Learning Task or the Alternating Serial Reaction Time Task test. Both tasks used circles on a screen and participants were asked to respond to the location of certain colored circles. These tasks tested the ability of participants to learn complex, probabilistic patterns, although test takers would not be aware of that.

The researchers found that people reporting low on the mindfulness scale tended to learn more -- their reaction times were quicker in targeting events that occurred more often within a context of preceding events than those that occurred less often.

. . .mindfulness may prevent formation of all habits. . .

"The very fact of paying too much attention or being too aware of stimuli coming up in these tests might actually inhibit implicit learning," one researcher says. "That suggests that mindfulness may help prevent formation of all habits -- which is done through implicit learning -- because a mindful person is aware of what they are doing."
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Story Source: based on materials provided by Georgetown University Medical Center (2013, November 12). Mindfulness inhibits implicit learning -- the wellspring of bad habits. ScienceDaily.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Chronic Stress Changes Your Genes

It's now known that chronic stress not only will damage your body, it actually changes your genes - and that is not good news for the millions of people world-wide who suffer in unremitting stressful situations nor for our health care system.

The stress reaction, also known as the fight or flight reaction, is something we all have.  While this response is important for survival, prolonged activation over an extended period of time has negative effects on health.

During a stress reaction, you experience an event, say an argument or near accident.  Your heart races, your palms sweat, and your body reacts to the sudden dumping of adrenaline into your bloodstream.  After time, the adrenaline is used up, and our body returns to normal.

With chronic stress, whatever is stressing you, say a demanding boss or a requirement to work long hours over a long period of time, your body continually pumps out adrenaline without an opportunity to recover.  The end result can be burnout or perhaps a wide variety of debilitating diseases from heart attack to stroke to Alzheimer's, to name but a few.

New research shows that chronic stress also changes the activity of the genes in your immune cells before they reach the bloodstream. These changes "instruct" cause the cells in your immune system to fight an infection or trauma that doesn't exist.  This leads to an overabundance of the inflammation linked to so many health problems.  One thing a hyped-up immune system may do is to attack your own body with an auto-immune disease such as arthritis.

A study in animals showed that this type of chronic stress changes the activation, or expression, of genes in immune cells before they are released from the bone marrow.
  • Genes that lead to inflammation are expressed at higher-than-normal levels,
  • while the activation of genes that might suppress inflammation is diminished.
Ohio State University scientists made this discovery in a study of mice. Their colleagues from other institutions, testing blood samples from humans living in poor socioeconomic conditions, found that similarly primed immune cells were present in these chronically stressed people as well.

"The cells share many of the same characteristics in terms of their response to stress," said John Sheridan, professor of oral biology in the College of Dentistry and associate director of Ohio State's Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR), and co-lead author of the study. "There is a stress-induced alteration in the bone marrow in both our mouse model and in chronically stressed humans that selects for a cell to be pro-inflammatory.

"So what this suggests is that if you're working for a really bad boss over a long period of time, that experience may play out at the level of gene expression in your immune system."

The mind-body connection is well established, and research has confirmed that stress is associated with health problems. But the inner workings of that association -- exactly how stress can harm health -- are still under investigation.

Under normal conditions, the bone marrow of humans is making and releasing billions of red blood cells every day, as well as a variety of white blood cells that constitute the immune system. Sheridan and colleagues already knew from previous work that stress skews this process so that the white blood cells produced in the bone marrow are more inflammatory than normal upon their release -- as if they are ready to defend the body against an external threat.

A typical immune response to a pathogen or other foreign body requires some inflammation, which is generated with the help of immune cells. But when inflammation is excessive and has no protective or healing role, the condition can lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, as well as other disorders.

In this work, the researchers compared cells circulating in the blood of mice that had experienced repeated social defeat to cells from control mice that were not stressed. The stressed mice had an average fourfold increase in the frequency of immune cells in their blood and spleen compared to the normal mice.

"This study provides a nice mechanism for how psychology impacts biology," said study first author Nicole Powell, a research scientist in oral biology at Ohio State. "Other studies have indicated that these cells are more inflammatory; our work shows that these cells are primed at the level of the gene, and it's directly due to the sympathetic nervous system."

This same pro-inflammatory immune-cell profile has been seen in research on parents of children with cancer.
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Story Source:  N. D. Powell, E. K. Sloan, M. T. Bailey, J. M. G. Arevalo, G. E. Miller, E. Chen, M. S. Kobor, B. F. Reader, J. F. Sheridan, S. W. Cole. Social stress up-regulates inflammatory gene expression in the leukocyte transcriptome via  -adrenergic induction of myelopoiesis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mindful Individuals Less Impulsive

Mindful individuals are much better at letting their feelings and thoughts go rather than getting carried away.

A new study from the University of Toronto Scarborough shows that people who are aware of their own thoughts and emotions are less affected by positive feedback from others.

"These findings suggest that mindful individuals may be less affected by immediate rewards and fits well with the idea that mindful individuals are typically less impulsive" says UTSC PhD candidate Rimma Teper.

Trait mindfulness is characterized by an ability to recognize and accept one's thoughts and emotions without judgment. Mindful individuals are much better at letting their feelings and thoughts go rather than getting carried away.

Using electroencephalography (EEG) the brain activity of participants was recorded while they completed a reaction time task on a computer. The authors were interested in participants' brain activity in response to receiving performance feedback that was rewarding, neutral or negative in nature. Not only were mindful individuals less responsive to rewarding feedback compared to others, they also showed less difference in their neural response to neutral versus rewarding feedback.

The findings also reflect further clinical research that supports the notion of accepting one's emotions is an important indicator of mental well-being.

"Individuals who are problem gamblers for instance show more brain reactivity to immediate rewards, because they are typically more impulsive," says Teper.

"Many studies, including our own past work, have shown that people who meditate, and mindful individuals exhibit improved self-control. If mindful individuals are also less affected by immediate rewards, as our study suggests, this may help explain why," says Teper's PhD supervisor and UTSC psychology professor Michael Inzlicht.

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Story Source:  Rimma Teper, Michael Inzlicht. Mindful Acceptance Dampens Neuroaffective Reactions to External and Rewarding Performance Feedback, Emotion, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Housework Isn't as Healthy as People Think

Exercise is a good stress reliever, but, if you are including doing housework as part of your exercise program, well, STOP IT.

Don't stop doing housework, just stop counting housework as part of your exercise.  Why?

A new study just published in the journal BMC Public Health reveals that people who include housework in their self-recorded physical activity diary tend to be heavier than those whose time is spent in other forms of exercise.
The analysis of data from the Sport NI Sport & Physical Activity Survey (SAPAS) by the University of Ulster, showed that people who include housework as part of their weekly exercise tend to be heavier.
Professor Marie Murphy who led this study commented, "Housework is physical activity and any physical activity should theoretically increase the amount of calories expended. But we found that housework was inversely related to leanness which suggests that either people are overestimating the amount of moderate intensity physical activity they do through housework, or are eating too much to compensate for the amount of activity undertaken."

Women and older people included higher levels of housework. For women, exclusion of housework from the list of activities meant that only 20% met current activity recommendations. Prof Murphy continued, "When talking to people about the amount of physical activity they need to stay healthy, it needs to be made clear that housework may not be intense enough to contribute to the weekly target and that other more intense activities also need to be included each week."
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Story Source:  Marie H Murphy, Paul Donnelly, Gavin Breslin, Simon Shibli and Alan M Nevill. Does housework keep you healthy? The contribution of domestic physical activity to meeting current recommendations. BMC Public Health, October 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Helps Lower Blood Pressure

This week an article appeared in the October issue of the prestigious professional journal Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine written by Joel W. Hughes, PhD, of Kent State (Ohio) University,.  Dr. Hughes et al conclude:
"Our results provide evidence that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), when added to lifestyle modification advice, may be an appropriate complementary treatment for BP in the prehypertensive range."
In everyday English: the research conducted by Dr. Hughes and colleagues adds to the body of evidence that mindful awareness along with other lifestyle changes works to lower the blood pressure of patients with pre-hypertension or borderline high blood pressure, a major pre-condition of stroke and heart attack.

If you've not heard of mindful awareness, it is a series of relaxation and focusing techniques used by many people around the world to reduce the short and long term effects of stress. 

Mindfulness Leads to Drop in Blood Pressure
The study included 56 women and men diagnosed with prehypertension -- blood pressure that was higher than desirable, but not yet so high that antihypertensive drugs would be prescribed. Prehypertension receives increasing attention from doctors because it is associated with a wide range of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. About 30% of Americans have prehypertension and may be prescribed medications for this condition.

One group of patients was assigned to a program of MBSR: eight group sessions of 2½ hours per week. Led by an experienced instructor, the sessions included three main types of mindfulness skills:
  1. body scan exercises,
  2. sitting meditation, and
  3. yoga exercises.
The other "comparison" group received lifestyle advice plus a muscle-relaxation activity. This "active control" treatment group was not expected to have lasting effects on blood pressure. Blood pressure measurements were compared between groups to determine whether the mindfulness-based intervention reduced blood pressure in this group of people at risk of cardiovascular problems.

Patients in the mindfulness-based intervention group had significant reductions in clinic-based blood pressure measurements. Systolic blood pressure (the first, higher number) decreased by an average of nearly 5 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), compared to less than 1 mm Hg with in the control group who did not receive the mindfulness intervention.

Diastolic blood pressure (the second, lower number) was also lower in the mindfulness-based intervention group: a reduction of nearly 2 mm Hg, compared to an increase of 1 mm Hg in the control group.

Mindfulness-based Could Prevent or Delay Need for Antihypertensive Drugs
Ambulatory monitoring is an increasingly used alternative to clinic-based blood pressure measurements. However, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring showed no significant difference in blood pressure with the mindfulness-based intervention.

"Mindfulness-based stress reduction is an increasingly popular practice that has been purported to alleviate stress, treat depression and anxiety, and treat certain health conditions," according to Dr. Hughes and coauthors. It has been suggested that MBSR and other types of meditation may be useful in lowering blood pressure. Previous studies have reported small but significant reductions in blood pressure with Transcendental Meditation; the new study is the first to specifically evaluate the blood pressure effects of mindfulness-based intervention in patients with prehypertension.

Although the blood pressure reductions associated with mindfulness-based interventions are modest, they are similar to many drug interventions and potentially large enough to lead to reductions in the risk of heart attack or stroke. Further studies are needed to see if the blood pressure-lowering effects are sustained over time.

The researchers argue that mindfulness-based interventions may provide a useful alternative to help "prevent or delay" the need for antihypertensive medications in patients with borderline high blood pressure.
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Create a Healthy Lifestyle
by Michael A. Panar

Story Source:  J. W. Hughes, D. M. Fresco, R. Myerscough, M. H. M. van Dulmen, L. E. Carlson, R. Josephson. Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Prehypertension. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2013