In 2016, the world lost so many people we all love. From George Michael to Frank Sinatra Jr to mother-daughter duo Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, many bright lights were extinguished last year — people who had so much more to do, to see, to give.
The world wanted more sexy songs from George Michael! More dulcet crooning from Frank Sinatra Jr! And more General Leia from Carrie Fisher! Personally, I was crushed every time I heard about another loss.
These brilliant talents were all cut down too early due to illnesses of the heart. And they’re not the only ones. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide. The bad news is heart disease is a silent killer and can strike you or someone you love in the prime of life — if you’re not taking steps to prevent it.
In 2012 alone, 31% of all global deaths — an estimated 17.5 million people died from heart diseases. In America alone, about 735,000 people have heart attacks every year. Yet no one thinks it can happen to them … until tragedy strikes.
In the face of heartbreaking losses and scary statistics, there is hope. There are ways to combat heart conditions, and meditation is one of the most powerful tools available.
One study showed that meditating twice a day helped African Americans with heart disease reduce the risk of death, heart attack and stroke. Additionally, it helped these patients lower their blood pressure, stress and anger levels (compared to patients who attended a health education class).
Additionally, famous research by Dean Ornish, M.D., has shown that heart disease can actually be reversed without the need for surgery or drugs! His program recommends meditation as a primary stress management technique — along with other healthy lifestyle changes.
“Chronic emotional stress can make things worse in so many ways,” Ornish has said. “It can worsen blood pressure, it can worsen the blockages in your arteries, it can precipitate irregular heart rhythms, it can make you more likely to have cardiac death and that’s just your heart!”
A 2014 review of the available evidence on meditation and heart
This silent disease doesn’t only attack the older generation. In young women, research has shown that three out of four heart attacks could be prevented by following healthy lifestyle guidelines. (Check out our infographic for more of the benefits of meditation.)
Personally, I work out and eat well in order to stay as healthy as possible. But I love knowing that having meditation as part of my daily routine is giving my heart the extra boost it needs to sustain me for as long as possible.
We all spend five minutes a day brushing our teeth to prevent cavities — and with five minutes a day of meditation, we can also help prevent heart disease; that’s a pretty sweet deal. If you can extend your life and strengthen your heart, why wouldn’t you?
Given how deadly heart disease is — and how intrusive traditional treatments are (heavy-duty medications or invasive, open-heart surgeries), meditation is an easy, enjoyable, and incredibly effective way to lower our risk. Regardless of age, gender, or health status, it’s worth investing in daily practice. As with anything, the earlier you start, the better (so millennials take heed!).
Imagine if any of the shining stars who died this year had taken the time to meditate daily; to slow down, to take loving care of their heart and health. Maybe they’d still be here today.
Why not commit to finding an enjoyable meditation practice today? Your beating heart will thank you (and so will the people you love).