- Relaxation response alters gene
expression in a specific set of genes which help in lowering blood
- The relaxation response could
successfully help reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients who are
not taking medication.
- The changes in gene expression
associated with drop in blood pressure are consistent with the physical
and inflammatory markers that one would anticipate in patients
successfully treated for hypertension.
It has been
identified that relaxation technique, can alter gene expression and thereby help in lowering
blood pressure. The study conducted by research teams at Beth Israel Deaconess
Medical Center (BIDMC), Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and the
Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at MGH has identified genes
associated with the body's response to relaxation techniques which may aid to
lower blood pressure. The findings are published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
The relaxation response
relaxation response is the physiological and psychological opposite of the
well-known fight-or-flight stress response. The response can be achieved
through relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation and has been shown to
reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
relaxation response is characterized by a set of measurable changes to the
body, including decreased respiration rate and heart rate. However, the
molecular mechanism of how this works has remained unclear.
Relaxation response and
hypertension Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
affects 1 billion people worldwide and is a major risk factor for heart attack
and stroke. Traditionally, high blood pressure is treated with medications, but
many patients experience treatment-limiting side effects. Alternative
strategies to lower blood pressure are crucial in such patients.
‘Relaxation response reduces blood pressure by altering gene expression associated with immune regulation, metabolism, and circadian rhythm.
study has found that the relaxation response can successfully help reduce blood
pressure in hypertensive patients who are not taking medication.
eight people with Stage 1 essential hypertension were enrolled in the study.
Stage 1 essential hypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure
between 140-159mm Hg and diastolic between 90-104mm Hg. The participants were
either not taking medications or had tapered off them for five weeks prior to
the outset of the study. All participants were also asked to fill out
standardized questionnaires about stress, depression and anxiety
Over the next eight
weeks, participants attended 8 weekly training sessions of mind-body
interventions designed to elicit the relaxation response. The training included
diaphragmatic breathing, mantra repetition and Mindfulness Meditation
After the 8 weeks
of training, patients were asked to fill out the same stress, depression and
anxiety questionnaires. Blood was also drawn from participants for gene
expression testing along with blood pressure measurement.
- Overall, 13 of the 24 participants
who completed the eight-week intervention experienced a clinically relevant
drop in blood pressure (below 140/90 mm Hg).
- Patients whose blood pressure
dropped below 140/90 mm Hg were called responders while those who still
fell within the definition of Stage I hypertension were called
- Specific gene expression changes
were observed in the responders over the course of the eight-week
relaxation response intervention that were not observed in the
- Among responders, the expression
of 1,771 genes differed between the baseline blood tests and those that
were taken after the 8 weeks of relaxation response practice.
- Reduction in blood pressure was
correlated with genes linked to immune regulatory pathways, metabolism and
glucose metabolism, cardiovascular system development and circadian
suggest that the relaxation response reduced blood pressure - at least in part
-- by altering expression of genes in a select set of biological
pathways," co-first author John Denninger, MD, PhD, Director of Research
at the Benson-Henry Institute, noted. "Importantly, the changes in gene
expression associated with this drop in blood pressure are consistent with the
physical changes in blood pressure and inflammatory markers that one would
anticipate and hope to observe in patients successfully treated for
- Relaxation Response May Reduce Blood Pressure by Altering Expression of a Set of Genes - (https://www.bidmc.org/about-bidmc/news/relaxation-response-may-reduce-blood-pressure-by-altering-expression-of-a-set-of-genes-1)
- Manoj K B, John W D, Jeff C H, Marie G J, Halsey N, Emma C F , Roberta G, Beverly B K, Barbara A M, Gregory L F, Jeffery A D, Herbert B, Randall M Z, Towia A L, "Specific Transcriptome Changes Associated with Blood Pressure Reduction in Hypertensive Patients After Relaxation Response Training", Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (2018) doi.org/10.1089/acm.2017.0053