Portugal: A recent study has shown that meditation can improve psychological symptoms and quality of life in patients with heart disease. The research was presented at ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Preventive Cardiology 2023.
The researchers report that in patients with coronary artery disease, four months of meditation practice improves quality of life
“It is common to feel low and anxious after being diagnosed with a heart condition,” said study author Ms. Ana Luisa Vitorino Monteiro, a meditation teacher and scientific researcher at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. “Our study suggests that meditation could be a useful addition to standard exercise rehabilitation.”
It is well established that stress, anxiety and depression are linked with the development and progression of heart disease.2-5 The onset of cardiovascular disease is associated with a more than two-fold increased risk of mental health conditions. At least one in five heart patients carries a mental disorder diagnosis.5 It is also recognised that heart patients with mental health problems need extra support to adhere to lifestyle changes and drug treatment.5,6
This study examined the effect of meditation on stress, anxiety, depression and quality of life in patients with coronary artery disease. The study included 40 patients with coronary artery disease who had attended an exercise-based cardiovascular rehabilitation programme for at least six months. The average age of participants was 65 years, and 20% were women. Participants were randomly allocated to four months of meditation practice on top of usual care or usual care alone. Usual care was continuing with the exercise programme.
The study used karuna meditation which focuses on breathing and compassionate thoughts. The meditation group had a weekly 90-minute session for one month. During the next three months, participants were asked to meditate for 20 minutes a day on their own or using a recording from the investigators, and they received a weekly phone call to ask questions. Stress, anxiety, depression and quality of life were assessed at baseline and after four months using the Perceived Stress Scale, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory and HeartQoL questionnaire, respectively.
Between baseline and the end of the study, average depression, stress and anxiety scores reduced in the meditation group by 44%, 31% and 29%, respectively. The corresponding reductions in the usual care group were 3%, 3% and 3%. Over the same time period, average scores on the emotional dimension of quality of life increased by 60% in the meditation group but reduced by 2% in the usual care group.
Ms. Vitorino Monteiro said: “Meditation is easy to do, can be done almost anywhere and does not require any equipment. Our study shows that meditation can improve psychological symptoms and quality of life in patients with heart disease, which we hope could also be the start of making healthier lifestyle choices.”