When Julia Banks was almost 70, she took up transcendental meditation. She had clogged arteries, high blood pressure and too much weight around the middle, and she enrolled in a clinical trial testing the benefits of meditation.
Now Mrs. Banks, 79, of Milwaukee, meditates twice a day, every day, for 20 minutes each time, setting aside what she calls "a little time for myself."
"You never think you've got that time to spare, but you take that time for yourself and you get the relaxation you need," said Mrs. Banks, who survived a major heart attack and a lengthy hospitalization after coronary artery bypass surgery six years ago.
"You have things on your mind, but you just blot it out and do the meditation, and you find yourself being more graceful in your own life," she said. "You find out problems you thought you had don't exist -- they were just things you focused on."
Could the mental relaxation have real physiological benefits? For Mrs. Banks, the study suggests, it may have. She has gotten her blood pressure under control, though she still takes medication for it, and has lost about 75 pounds.
Findings from the study were presented this week at an American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Fla. They suggest that transcendental meditation may have real therapeutic value for high-risk people, like Mrs. Banks, with established coronary artery disease.