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Meditation reduces stress and anxiety in patients with heart disease

Coronary Artery Disease (Chronic)

Malaga, Spain – 14 April 2023:  Four months of meditation practice improves quality of life in patients with coronary artery disease, according to research presented at ESC Preventive Cardiology 2023, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).1

“It is common to feel low and anxious after being diagnosed with a heart condition,” said study author Ms. Ana Luisa Vitorino Monteiro, a meditation teacher and scientific researcher at the University of Lisbon, Portugal. “Our study suggests that meditation could be a useful addition to standard exercise rehabilitation.”

It is well established that stress, anxiety and depression are linked with the development and progression of heart disease.2-5 The onset of cardiovascular disease is associated with a more than two-fold increased risk of mental health conditions.5 At least one in five heart patients carries a diagnosis of a mental disorder.5 It is also recognised that heart patients with mental health problems need extra support to adhere to lifestyle changes and drug treatment.5,6

This study examined the effect of meditation on stress, anxiety, depression and quality of life in patients with coronary artery disease. The study included 40 patients with coronary artery disease who had attended an exercise-based cardiovascular rehabilitation programme for at least six months. The average age of participants was 65 years and 20% were women. Participants were randomly allocated to four months of meditation practice on top of usual care, or usual care alone. Usual care was continuing with the exercise programme.

The study used karuna meditation which focuses on breathing and compassionate thoughts. The meditation group had a weekly 90-minute session for one month. During the next three months, participants were asked to meditate for 20 minutes a day on their own or using a recording from the investigators, and they received a weekly phone call to ask questions. Stress, anxiety, depression and quality of life were assessed at baseline and after four months using the Perceived Stress Scale, Beck Anxiety Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory and HeartQoL questionnaire, respectively.

Between baseline and the end of the study, average depression, stress and anxiety scores reduced in the meditation group by 44%, 31% and 29%, respectively. The corresponding reductions in the usual care group were 3%, 3% and 3%. Over the same time period, average scores on the emotional dimension of quality of life increased by 60% in the meditation group but reduced by 2% in the usual care group.

Ms. Vitorino Monteiro said: “Meditation is easy to do, can be done almost anywhere and does not require any equipment. Our study shows that meditation can improve psychological symptoms and quality of life in patients with heart disease, which we hope could also be the start of making healthier lifestyle choices.”



1The abstract ‘Meditation as a stress management strategy in cardiac rehabilitation for coronary artery disease patients: a randomized controlled trial’ will be presented during the session ‘Moderated ePoster 20’ which takes place on 14 April at 17:30 CEST at Moderated ePoster Station 1.
2Yusuf S, Hawken S, Ounpuu S, et al. Effect of potentially modifiable risk factors associated with myocardial infarction in 52 countries (the INTERHEART study): case-control study. Lancet. 2004;364:937–952.
3Steptoe A, Brydon L. Emotional triggering of cardiac events. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009;33:63–70. 
4Steptoe A, Kivimäki M. Stress and cardiovascular disease. Nat Rev Cardiol. 2012;9:360–370. 
5Visseren FLJ, Mach F, Smulders YM, et al. 2021 ESC Guidelines on cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical practice. Eur Heart J. 2021;42:3227–3337.
6Kuhl EA, Fauerbach JA, Bush DE, Ziegelstein RC. Relation of anxiety and adherence to risk-reducing recommendations following myocardial infarction. Am J Cardiol. 2009;103:1629–1634.

Notes to editor

Authors: ESC Press Office 
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Funding: None.

Disclosures: None.

About the European Association of Preventive Cardiology

The European Association of Preventive Cardiology (EAPC) is a branch of the ESC. Its mission is to promote excellence in research, practice, education and policy in cardiovascular health, primary and secondary prevention.

About ESC Preventive Cardiology          #ESCPrev2023
ESC Preventive Cardiology, formerly EuroPrevent, is the leading international congress on preventive cardiology and the annual congress of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology (EAPC) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

About the European Society of Cardiology

The European Society of Cardiology brings together health care professionals from more than 150 countries, working to advance cardiovascular medicine and help people lead longer, healthier lives.

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