According to a new study, African-Americans who practiced transcendental meditation are at 48 percent reduced risk of having a heart attack.

"We hypothesized that reducing stress by managing the mind-body connection would help improve rates of this epidemic disease. It appears that Transcendental Meditation is a technique that turns on the body's own pharmacy -- to repair and maintain itself," said Robert Schneider, M.D., lead researcher and director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, IA.

The study involved 201 participants who were randomly assigned to either a transcendental meditation program or a health education class that taught healthy lifestyle.

Researchers found that blood pressure decreased by about 5 mm Hg and anger levels dropped significantly in people who attended the meditation class compared to the control group. Both groups showed equal improvements in following a healthier lifestyle.

Regular mindful meditation was associated with lower heart problems and stroke.

"Transcendental Meditation may reduce heart disease risks for both healthy people and those with diagnosed heart conditions," said Schneider.

"The research on Transcendental Meditation and cardiovascular disease is established well enough that physicians may safely and routinely prescribe stress reduction for their patients with this easy to implement, standardized and practical program," Schneider added.

Transcendental meditation is practiced 20 minutes twice each day while sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. About 5 million people across the world practice transcendental meditation, says the Maharishi Foundation.

Previous research has shown that mindfulness-based meditation can help old people cope with chronic low back pain.

Other Researchers have also found meditation helpful in cancer therapy. Meditation can improve cancer-related cognitive dysfunction.

Meditation also causes certain structural changes in the brain. People who have been meditating for many years have more gray matter than other people, says a study published in the journal NeuroReport.

The study is published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.