A mindfulness-based program designed to lower blood pressure spurred adults to change unhealthy habits and significantly lower their readings, says epidemiologist Eric Loucks, Ph.D., from Brown University.

In the program, adult participants with an average age of 60 were trained to enhance attention control, emotion regulation, and self-awareness of healthy and unhealthy habits.

In addition to success in lowering their blood pressure, individuals who had not been adhering to standard guidelines for salt and alcohol intake and physical activity improved in those areas as well, reported Loucks, who heads the Mindfulness Center at Brown’s School of Public Health. These effects still held at a one-year follow-up, he added.

The customized program, Mindfulness-based Blood Pressure Reduction, may also be an effective preventive tool, Loucks said.

“We know enough about hypertension that we can theoretically control it in everybody – yet in about half of all people diagnosed, it is still out of control,” said Loucks, who led the study, published recently in PLOS One. “Mindfulness may represent another approach to helping people bring their blood pressure down by allowing them to understand what’s happening in their minds and bodies,” Loucks added.