Kent State, University of Pennsylvania researchers receive grant for blood pressure study

Tristan Buirley

Two researchers from Kent State and a colleague from the University of Pennsylvania will conduct the first large-scale study of the effects of mindfulness meditation on blood pressure.

David Fresco, professor of psychology at Kent State, and Joel Hughes, associate professor of psychology at Kent State, along with their colleague Jeffrey Greeson, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, received a $3.64 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for their study, according to a Kent State press release.

In this clinical trial study, set to start in 2015, 180 individuals with elevated blood pressure from Northeast Ohio and Philadelphia will be recruited to see if learning to manage stress through mindfulness mediation, or other stress management strategies, can help keep them off antihypertensive medication.

Study participants will learn how to control stress through one of two programs. The first is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) through meditation, a proven stress reduction program shown to reduce blood pressure in a 2006 trial led by Hughes and Fresco, according to the press release.

In this new study, MBSR will be compared to Stress Management Education (SME), which teaches people to manage stress without meditation. In addition to the two programs, participants will receive standard information on how to eat healthy and exercise for lower blood pressure.

“For most of these patients, this will be their last and best chance to stay off medications,” Fresco said in the press release. “Although nearly half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure, only one in three patients can successfully control their high blood pressure with conventional treatment, including lifestyle modifications and, if needed, antihypertensive medication.”

Stress, according to the press release, can increase blood pressure by making the heart,pump harder and making blood vessels contract, as well as interfering with health behaviors such as diet, exercise and sleep.

“We’ve long known of a simple straightforward way to manage one’s blood pressure,” Fresco said in the press release. “It involves following a regimen of diet and exercise.

Trouble is, things that are simple are not always easy. Many of us struggle to follow a healthy lifestyle and stress makes it so much harder. We believe that teaching individuals skills for stress management, such as mindfulness meditation, may help them deal with stress head-on and strengthen their resolve to make a healthy lifestyle a priority in their lives.”

Fresco was out of his office when called for further questions.

Contact Tristan Buirley at [email protected].