Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Beat Goes On, but is that O.K.?

A few jobs back, I helped develop EKG electrodes. Being an adhesives guy, I helped develop the multiple adhesives that keep the electrode stuck to the patient's skin. Benig also a curious sort, I spent a lot of time reading about the electrophysiology of the heart - what all the peaks on an EKG mean. I also was fascinated that just as important was the gap (the interbeat interval) between the heartbeats. Common sense would lead you to believe that the gap should be constant, but that is not the case for a healthy heart. In fact a beat-gap for a healthy heart varies continuously and follows a power law, while an unhealthy heart has a steady beat-gap. (I am not aware that this knowledge is being used routinely by cardiologiest, as making the measurements in time consuming and takes some equipment beyond the standard EKG monitors.)

So now a new preprint shows that meditation, while slowing the heart, also induces steady beat-gaps. The gaps go back to their normal pattern after the meditation stops, but this study raises the question: is meditation truely good for the heart? At this point, the answer is unknown, so (repeat after me) "more study is needed!"

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