At the end of 1963, President Lyndon Johnson established the month of February as a time to focus on heart health, with the first official heart health month being February 1964. February is a traditional month for celebrating love and all things related to the heart, reminding us to take some time to consider the best practices for our heart’s health and longevity. In this February 2023 issue:
- Blog posts from last month written by women for women
- Heart 101
- What puts you at risk for heart disease
- Gender-based differences in hearts and heart disease
- Relationships from a full heart
- Most recent published research on TM and heart health
- What women say: Cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum’s message
In case you missed them, below are links to two posts that were published on our blog in January. To see previous posts and to search past posts by topic, please visit our archives at tm-women.org/blog/
A Wake-up Call to Government and Education Leaders: The Duty of Society is the Development of Consciousness
Before world-renowned author Aldous Huxley’s graduation from Oxford University with honors in 1916, he wrote to his brother about his belief that higher states of consciousness—as described throughout history by mystics and sages—are accessible to everyone. Huxley’s belief matured into the idea that the goal and duty of a society are the nurturing of everyone’s development of consciousness.
An assembly of the square root of the US population (1725 people) took place from 2007 to 2011 at Maharishi International University in Iowa. All the participants practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique and an advanced technique of TM (the TM-Sidhi technique). Statistics on multiple indications of stress in the nation were studied before, during, and after that assembly.
Your heart is located in your chest slightly to the left of center between the right and left lungs, just behind and a little to the left of the breastbone and is protected by your ribcage. It consists of multiple layers of tissue and is generally about the size of two clenched fists in an adult, depending somewhat on size and gender. Your heart contains four main chambers made of muscle and is powered by electrical impulses. Your brain and nervous system direct your heart’s function as the key actor in your circulatory system, which is a network of blood vessels that carry blood to and from all areas of your body. The blood delivers oxygen and nutrients and carries carbon dioxide to your lungs so you can expel it. The valves of the heart maintain the correct direction of the blood flow. The electrical system of the heart controls heart rate and rhythm. Your personal history, your family history, and your lifestyle all contribute to the condition of your heart.
You can read a more detailed and elaborated description on the Cleveland Clinic’s website here.
Reduce Your Chance of Developing Heart Disease
Heart disease is still the number one cause of fatality in America. This is no longer necessary – we can avert this outcome by reducing our personal risk.
Eighty percent of women between 40-60 years of age have at least one heart disease risk factor that can be addressed and controlled. For most women, the onset of heart disease begins at an earlier age and continues over many years filled with unhealthy choices, behaviors, and emotions. The American Heart Association claims that more than 70% of cardiac events in white people and more than 90% in black people have the potential to be prevented.
You can reduce factors that make you susceptible to heart disease, such as:
You can choose to exercise more; You can reduce or eliminate smoking and consumption of salt. You can reverse conditions such as depression, stress, high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol levels or low good cholesterol levels, obesity, and uncontrolled diabetes.
The personal experiences of many women as well as published scientific research have shown that many risk factors can be reduced or eliminated as a result of the practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique.
Nancy Lonsdorf M.D., author and expert on women’s health, wrote, “One of the best foundations for heart health is twice-daily practice of the TM technique, to reduce physical and mental stress, lower blood pressure, and dramatically decrease rates of heart attack.”
How Women’s Hearts and Heart Disease Differ from Men’s
For decades, coronary related research was done almost exclusively on men—scientists mistakenly assumed that males and females experience heart disease in the same way. Today’s cardiologists understand more clearly that men and women have different symptoms and sometimes require unique treatment guidelines. Women’s heart health hospitals are gaining a foothold across the country.
Understanding the differences between women’s and men’s hearts can prevent dangerous consequences. Differences may be subtle, however they become more pronounced with heart disease.
Up to 40% of initial cardiac events are fatal and though the numbers trend downward for men, for over a decade recently data showed they climbed higher for women. Until recently, the prognosis of women with symptoms suggestive of coronary artery disease in the absence of vascular obstruction had been thought to be benign. More recently, evidence demonstrates that women with cardiac symptoms in the setting of normal or nonobstructive coronary arteries still have an unacceptably high risk of life-threatening cardiac events.
According to Dr. Abraham Bornstein, Board-Certified Cardiologist and Fellow of The New York Academy of Medicine in the Division of Evidence-Based Medicine:
“The rate of repeated heart attacks and one-year mortality rates are still higher in women than in men. Since sudden cardiac death is often the first manifestation of coronary artery disease in a high proportion of women, early identification of women at risk for heart disease is critical. Women’s coronary vessels, which are inherently structurally smaller in size, when pathologically impacted, appear to contain more diffuse atherosclerosis, and their microvasculature appears to be more frequently dysfunctional compared to men. Functionally, women’s vessels frequently show impaired vasodilator responses. Microvascular structural damage secondary to aging, hypertension, diabetes, left ventricular hypertrophy, and other processes is also likely to be important in ischemic heart disease in women. Considerable evidence indicates that coronary vessels of women with coronary heart disease may be more diseased compared to men.”
According to the website of Beth Israel Lahey Health in Massachusetts:
“One of the most common types of heart disease is ischemic heart disease. It happens when coronary arteries become narrowed by a substance called plaque. Plaque can lead to blood clots, which can cause a heart attack.
“In some women, especially younger ones, plaque affects coronary arteries differently than in men and may be difficult to diagnose. And while heart attacks in men often happen from an obstruction in one of the major cardiac arteries, in many women they occur in the smaller vessels of the heart. In some cases, these vessels become constricted without evidence of blockage.
“Studies also show that while type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure raise heart attack risks for both sexes, they are more potent risks for women.
“Both men and women can have chest pain, pressure or discomfort from a heart attack. However, women are more likely to have the following heart attack symptoms, often without chest pain or discomfort:
- A sense of dread
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
- Extreme fatigue
- Extreme jaw or back pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden shortness of breath”
“The art of behavior is such that the first moment of the meeting should have a real value of the meeting of the two hearts. Thus, we find that the first fundamental in the art of behavior is: meet with warmth, and meet to give….”Maharishi, founder of the TM program
As Maharishi also pointed out, an ocean can flow in large waves whereas a shallow pond cannot.
When we’re stressed and tired, depressed or anxious, or filled with self-doubt, we’re emotionally not as available to support others’ needs, listen to them attentively, or flow spontaneously with love. Our heart, at those times, is shallow in its capacity.
It’s important to stay rested, guard your health, and learn the Transcendental Meditation technique if you haven’t already. Many published research studies in top-notch journals have shown that the TM technique reduces stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and lack of self-esteem. It settles the mind and allows us to rest in inner silence, nourishing us from within, and enabling us to be more giving and present to others.
“We need silence to be able to touch other souls.”Mother Teresa
Looking for a new book in 2023? Dr. Alison Plaut has been studying and applying Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s principles for the past 25 years. In her new book Be More, she gives practical and simple steps to find inner happiness, peace success, and more. In Be More, there are three chapters on love. Love takes a million different forms, and its transforming ability is nearly unsurpassed. It is a universal principle of religions and spiritual traditions. And quite honestly, the world needs more love.
TM practice reduces hypertension: Journal of Cardiology, December 2021
The study found that the Transcendental Meditation technique reduces risk for cardiovascular disease and potentially related co-morbidities, such as COVID, in Black adults with high normal blood pressure.
In 2022 Black men and women—largely because of stress from social and economic inequality—continued to suffer from disproportionately high rates of death and hospitalization due to heart attack, stroke, heart failure and, over the past two years, COVID. High blood pressure poses the greatest risk for many of these conditions, accounting for 50 percent of the disparities between Black and white adults.
There was a significantly greater systolic blood pressure reduction in the TM group compared to the health education control group for participants with high normal blood pressure.
“High blood pressure contributes to severe illness and death from COVID as well as heart attack and stroke,” said lead researcher Dr. Robert Schneider. “Black Americans who suffer from health inequalities and all at-risk adults would benefit from naturally lowering their BP through the Transcendental Meditation program.”
Previous studies showed the benefits of the TM technique on hypertension in Black Americans but this is the first published clinical trial studying the long-term effects of stress reduction for at-risk individuals with high normal blood pressure, also called prehypertension. The findings indicate that the TM technique can contribute to the prevention of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and related health disparities for anyone with prehypertension or hypertension.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum is a leading authority on women’s heart health. Her practice is in NYC, where she has been the Director of Women’s Cardiovascular Prevention at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Director for Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital, and Director of the Center for Cardiac and Pulmonary Health at Beth Israel Medical Center. She is a published author and world-renowned speaker. Awards include NY Times Super Doctor, 2013-2020, Castle and Connolly Top Doctor for Cardiovascular Disease, 2012-2020, and New York Magazine’s Prestigious Best Doctors, 2014-2015. This is the message she sent us for heart health month:
“In the past several years, women have disproportionately been affected by stress during the COVID pandemic and these subsequent years. The chronic stress hormones that have impacted women during this time have a significant negative impact on cardiovascular and mental health.
“Integrating TM for 20 minutes twice a day can decrease this stress response, lower stress hormones, help dilate the arteries, decrease blood pressure, reduce inflammation and help to manage the stress and anxiety associated with the realities of today. We are living in a time when TM should be urgently considered to be part of maintaining heart health, especially for women.”
Editor’s note: We’d love to hear your comments on the benefits you’ve received from the TM practice. And, with your permission, we’ll publish them here for other women to enjoy. Send your comment to email@example.com