In a feasibility study at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, investigators looked at whether Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) could decrease blood pressure in low-income, urban, African-American older adults, and whether such an intervention would be acceptable to and feasible with minority, low income, older adults when provided at home. 

The study was launched because (1) hypertension affects a large proportion of urban African-American older adults; and (2) many older adults don’t have access to medications and/or don’t take them when they do have them.

Participants were at least 62 years old and residents of a low-income senior residence. All were African-American, mostly female. Twenty participants were randomized to the mindfulness-based intervention or a social support control group, both of which were 8 weeks duration.
Blood pressure was measured with the Omron automatic blood pressure machine at baseline and at the end of the 8-week intervention.

A multivariate regression analysis was performed on the difference in scores between baseline and post-intervention blood pressure scores, controlling for age, education, smoking status, and anti-hypertensive medication use. Effect sizes were calculated to quantify the relationship between participation in the mindfulness-based intervention and the blood pressure scores.

Attendance remained 98% in all 8 weeks in both the experimental group and the controls. 

The average systolic blood pressure decreased for both groups post-intervention. Individuals in the intervention group exhibited a 21.92-mmHg lower systolic blood pressure compared to the social support control group at the end of the intervention period,  statistically significant at p=0.020.

The average diastolic blood pressure decreased in the intervention group (16.70-mmHg lower) at the end of the 8 weeks, while it increased in the social support group, statistically significant at p=0.003.

The researchers conclude that older adult women are at a time in life when a reflective, stationary intervention like MBSR, delivered in residence, could be an appealing mechanism to improve blood pressure. These preliminary results warrant larger trials in this hypertensive study population.

Citation:  Palta P, Page G, Piferi RL, Gill JM, Hayat MJ, Connolly AB, Szanton SL. Evaluation of a mindfulness-based intervention program to decrease blood pressure in low-income African-American older adults. Journal of Urban Health. 2012 Apr;89 (2): pages 308-16. [email protected]