Posted: 11.12.2014 | by AMRA

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The American Heart Association has identified several factors that protect against cardiovascular disease (CVD). Some of these CVD factors (smoking, diet, exercise) are behaviorally modifiable, but change requires a heightened degree of self-monitoring and self-control.

In an effort to discover whether mindfulness may support better cardiovascular health by its potential to enhance self-monitoring and self-control, Loucks et al. [International Journal of Behavioral Medicine] investigated whether CVD protective factors, as measured by blood tests (glucose and cholesterol), blood pressure cuff, and self-report measures, were associated with levels of dispositional mindfulness (as measured by the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale, MAAS).

Data were collected from 382 participants (66% Caucasian, 57% female, average age = 47 years) in the New England Family Study, a large longitudinal study of the causes of neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular disease. The researchers examined the associations between mindfulness and “good” and “bad” cardiovascular health (“good” defined as 4 or more protective factors against cardiovascular disease; “bad” as fewer than 4).

Highly mindful participants were almost twice as likely (prevalence ratio=1.86) to have “good” cardiovascular health profiles as compared to less mindful participants. Highly mindful participants were significantly more likely to be nonsmokers, have untreated fasting blood glucose below 100 mg/dL, have BMIs under the cutoff for “normal,” be physically active, have stronger feelings of personal mastery, and have fewer depressive symptoms.

The relationship between mindfulness and cardiovascular health was mediated, to a large degree, through its association with fewer depressive symptoms and a higher sense of mastery.

Although the implications of these findings are limited by data collected from one point in time, this study suggests that people with high levels of mindfulness in daily life display certain behavioral and psychological characteristics that are protective against cardiovascular disease.

Reference:

Loucks, E. B., Britton, W. B., Howe, C. J., Eaton, C. B., & Buka, S. L. (2014). Positive associations of dispositional mindfulness with cardiovascular health: The New England family study. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

[Link to abstract]