Telomerase is an enzyme that has been associated with reduced blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and mortality. A new study published in PLOS ONE has revealed that the Transcendental Meditation technique and lifestyle changes both appear to stimulate genes that produce telomerase.
Specifically, these approaches were found to activate two genes that code for telomerase, which adds molecules to the ends of chromosomes, or telomeres, protecting them from deteriorating.
Dr. Robert Schneider, FACC, coauthor of the study, said, "The finding that telomerase gene expression is increased, and that this is associated with a reduction in blood pressure in a high-risk population, suggests that this may be a mechanism by which stress reduction improves cardiovascular health."
For this pilot trial, the subjects included 48 men and women with high blood pressure who were recruited and studied at Howard University Medical Center. Half were assigned to a group that learned the Transcendental Meditation technique and received a basic health education course. The other half were assigned to a group that focused on achieving significant lifestyle modifications such as weight reduction, reducing salt intake, engaging in regular physical activity, and moderating alcohol. They also participated in support groups and group exercises.
After 16 weeks, both groups showed significant increases in telomerase gene expression and reductions in blood pressure. There was no significant difference between the changes in the two groups. The results also showed that the lifestyle modification group made a larger number of changes in their lifestyle behaviors.
Dr. Schneider, director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at MUM, said, "These findings are very encouraging for prevention. They show that both the Transcendental Meditation technique and active lifestyle modification can contribute to heart health."
Coauthor Otelio Randall from Howard University College of Medicine concluded, "This pilot study in African Americans suggests stress reduction and lifestyle modifications may reduce blood pressure with an increase in telomerase."
John Fagan, professor of molecular biology at Maharishi University of Management and senior author on the study, said, "The result is valuable new information, relevant both to cardiovascular disease and to the molecular mechanisms involved in Transcendental Meditation."