Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biological Sciences (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Biological Sciences

Advisor 1

John J. Durocher

Committee Member 1

Kevin M. Trewartha

Committee Member 2

Brigitte E. Morin

DOI

10.37099/mtu.dc.etdr/1053

Abstract

Cardiovascular disease and hypertension are leading causes of death worldwide. The mitigation of high blood pressure is essential in decreasing the prevalence of cardiovascular-related deaths worldwide. Stress and anxiety are known to play a role in augmenting blood pressure in individuals of all ages. This increase in pressure can result in premature stiffening of large arteries in systemic circulation. Mindfulness is an ancient, non-secular practice which aids in stress reduction. Decentering, an aspect of mindfulness, involves accepting thoughts as transient rather than permanent associations. The purpose of this project was to examine the relationship between cardiovascular health and mindfulness practices. In Study 1, we investigated how a one-hour session of mindfulness meditation affected arterial stiffness and other cardiovascular variables. In Study 2, we compared inexperienced meditators’ inherent ability to decenter with their arterial stiffness. We hypothesized that an acute meditation session would improve cardiovascular variables in Study 1. In Study 2, we postulated that individuals who are better able to decenter would have a slower pulse wave velocity and more elastic arteries. Our results from Study 1 suggest that an acute session of meditation can significantly decrease aortic pulsatile load. In Study 2, we concluded that a greater ability to decenter is correlated with slower pulse wave velocity. These new findings support many previous studies that suggest that mindfulness practices are a beneficial lifestyle modification that can positively impact cardiovascular health.

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