Researchers at Harvard found that meditation dramatically alters gene expression, and seems to extend lifespan at the cellular level. Learn to play the meditation card and the health benefits will be there for all to see.
It took scientists decades to understand what Asian hermits have known for millennia: meditation is truly a wonder-worker in the human body. Recent groundbreaking studies concluded that meditating positively impacts gene expression in the body, promotes longevity, protects against stroke and heart disease and drastically reduces visits to the doctor.
Heart disease and stroke are the number one and number four causes of death in America, and both are linked to high blood pressure. Meditation alone was proven to reduce blood pressure readings in those with borderline hypertension from 150/94 to 141/88 over a five-year period, with 120/80 considered ideal. In cases of elevated blood cholesterol, which is also strongly linked to heart disease, meditators’ cholesterol levels dropped from 255 to 225, with 220 being the average for American adults.
Other studies on meditators’ use of the medical system are even more remarkable. Regular meditators visit outpatient clinics, on average, half as much as non-meditators, with older meditators enjoying comparatively even better health: those over 40 visit the doctor only a quarter as much as other people of the same age do. With 60-90 percent of all doctors visits being stress-related, meditation’s proven de-stressing power may be to thank for the lower incidence of illness. Side benefits of meditation include a decreased sensitivity to pain and improved emotional health.
Most exciting of all are recent findings on the impact of meditation on gene expression. Researchers at Harvard found that meditating for just eight weeks dramatically alters gene expression, “turning off” hundreds of genes conducive to the onset of disease while “turning on” hundreds of genes conducive to health. Long-term meditators evinced even more powerful gene changes. And meditation seems to extend lifespan at the cellular level through the action of telomerase, an enzyme that repairs telomeres, the endings of chromosome that provide a biological marker of how long a person will live. While stress has been found to depress telomerase levels, meditation and other lifestyle interventions increase telomere length by 30 percent through improving telomerase levels.
Were meditation in pill form, as Dr. Dean Ornish has said, it would be a multi-billion dollar industry. With nothing necessary for meditation except a mentor and a seat, it may be the most accessible, if unconventional, guarantee of health.