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Is Prayer Good for Your Health?

Prayer is of compelling interest to Americans. Oprah talks about it on her TV show. Half a dozen books on the value of prayer and meditation have made the best-seller lists. It's good for the soul, but is it good for your health?

In a report published in the July 2000 issue of Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, researchers from Duke University Medical Center studied the survival rates of older adults. The researchers found that healthy older adults who participate in private religious activity -- prayer, meditation or bible study -- "appear to have a survival advantage over those who do not."

Much scientific research points to the health benefits of certain forms of meditation that involve repetitive prayers or mantras. When meditating, subjects sit quietly, clear their minds and repeatedly utter a silent phrase or prayer. It could be, "May the best possible outcome prevail," "May God bless my family" or "Peace."

Studies show that such meditation can reduce oxygen use, increase blood flow, decrease blood pressure, relax muscles, lower secretion of stress hormones, improve brain functioning and help remedy insomnia. These health benefits often persist for several hours after meditating.

To reap the health benefits of meditative prayer, practice it regularly, says Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., a Tucson-based physician and author of "Meditation as Medicine". Instead of praying just once a day at a special time," he says, "pray throughout the day when you're in a traffic jam, playing with your children or working at the office."

Source: Kyle Roderick, Third Age Media

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