Stress is the fuel or cause for many diseases we encounter in modern society, whether it is stress from work, lack of sleep or personal/family issues. All these factors play a role in the development of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes as well as other inflammatory conditions.
The bottom line is each and every one of us, no matter what medical symptoms we are experiencing or what diagnosis we have been given, needs to find effective ways of destressing, whether it is through meditation, yoga, exercise or a combination thereof.
Medication alone is not sufficient to prevent or treat diseases.
The concept of meditation is gaining popularity but is still foreign in western circles. Many think meditation is for tree hugging hippies. But I have personally seen in my practice the wonderful benefits of meditation in reducing stress hormones which can increase one's risk for cardiovascular events.
Science has proven that certain stress hormones like norepinephrine, adrenaline as well as cortisol when elevated can induce cardiac events, such as a heart attack, heart failure, stroke and rhythm disturbances. Meditation is an extremely effective, non-medicinal approach to reduce these noxious hormones even before signs of disease arise. There are many ways one can meditate. There is the traditional mantra-based meditation where you repeat a series of lines and putting you into a Zen like state.
There are also guided meditations, such as transcendental meditation which leads the meditator through a visual experience, embarking on the journey to the inner depths of their being.
My personal favorite is Pranayama breathing, otherwise known as box breathing, where the meditator takes a deep breath, holds it, releases it and holds it again, with the focus on being more cognizant of your breath and the environment. There is also Vipassana which is a type of yoga, but really is a breathing exercise where you focus on your breath as you inhale and then exhale.
All of these are helpful for stress, decrease hormones, and reduce cardiovascular risk. The ultimate decision is not whether or not to practice meditation, but to ask yourself which form of meditation works best for your lifestyle and personality. As I tell my patients, it's all about consistency.