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Can Controlling Stress Make People Healthier?

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​A Marshfield Clinic cardiologist is studying whether five minutes of meditation daily might help patients avoid recurring heart problems.

Kamilla J. Buddemeier, M.D. Kamilla J. Buddemeier, M.D.

Kamilla J. Buddemeier, M.D.​, noticed some patients returning, despite state-of-the-art treatments and lifestyle modifications. Many were also younger, so she wondered whether unrelenting stress was involved.

About five years ago, she learned of the “Big Mind” process of meditation, developed by Zen master Genpo Merzel Roshi, and unattached to any religion.

“I thought this might be a tool I could use to help these patients,” she said. She developed a scientific clinical trial, with patients randomly assigned to a control group or a group that learns how to reach the Big Mind meditative state. That group spends five minutes per day, in quiet meditation, and learns an interactive process exploring emotions and stressors, to help avoid unhealthy habits that contribute to disease.

Each group will be surve​yed at the beginning of the trial and at periodic intervals, and their urine will be tested for the stress hormone urine cortisol. Participants will be monitored for signs of less stress and recurrent heart disease, compared to the control group.

“We’ll be watching to see if this can help people respond better to what comes up in life, rather than having knee-jerk reactions,” she said. "I hope to show that people can have more control over their lives."