Almost 60 percent of the participants were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Forty-one percent of the meditation group took aspirin, as did 31 percent of the health education group; 38 percent of the meditation group and 43 percent of the health education group smoked, the researchers noted.
Participants' average body-mass index -- a measurement of body fat based on height and weight -- was 32, which is considered obese.
Meditation consisted of sitting with eyes closed for about 20 minutes twice a day. The goal was to rest while remaining alert.
After more than five years of follow-up, the researchers found those who meditated saw significant reductions in blood pressure and anger compared to those receiving health education. In addition, 20 people in the medication group had a heart attack or stroke or died, compared with 32 in the health education group.
Both groups increased exercise and drank less. For those who meditated, there was a trend toward reduced smoking; however, this was not statistically significant.
Learning how to do Transcendental Meditation isn't inexpensive. An initial 10-hour course runs about $1,500 when taught by nonprofit groups, and there is continued lifetime follow-up, Schneider said.
And it's not something you can learn by yourself. "You've got to have a teacher right there in front of you teaching according to experience," he said. "So it's only learned live."
Transcendental Meditation is not generally covered by health insurance, he said. "One of the reasons we did the study is because insurance and Medicare calls for citing evidence for what's to be reimbursed," Schneider said. "This study will lead toward reimbursement. That's the whole idea."
But a cardiology expert said that although the study adds to evidence supporting meditation, it doesn't pr
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