, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 453-468

Relaxation, reduction in angry articulated thoughts, and improvements in borderline hypertension and heart rate

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An intensive 7-week relaxation therapy was evaluated in a sample of unmedicated borderline hypertensive men. All subjects were provided state-of-the-art medical information regarding changes known to affect hypertension favorably, e.g., lower salt intake and regular exercise. In addition, relaxation subjects were trained in muscle relaxation that entailed audiotaped home practice. As predicted, relaxation combined with hygiene lowered blood pressure more than did hygiene alone. Neither treatment favorably affected a paper-and-pencil measure of anger but relaxation did lower anger-hostility on a new cognitive assessment procedure, Articulated Thoughts in Simulated Situations (ATSS). Moreover, ATSS anger-hostility reduction was correlated with blood pressure or heart rate reductions, for all subjects and especially for those in the Relaxation condition. This represents the first clinically demonstrated link between change in a cognitive variable and change in cardiovascular activity. Finally, results were especially strong in subjects high in norepinephrine, suggesting its importance in essential hypertension.

This research was supported by Grant RO1 HL31090 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.