“The medical literature tells us that the most effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many more problems are through healthy diet and exercise. Our bodies have evolved to move, yet we now use the energy in oil instead of muscles to do our work.” – David Suzuki
A stroke results from an interruption of the blood supply to the brain, depriving it of needed oxygen and nutrients. This can result in the death of brain cells and depending on the extent of the damage produce profound loss of function. Strokes come in two varieties. The most common (87%) is ischemic stroke resulting from a blocked artery. But strokes can also occur due to leaking or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, known as hemorrhagic stroke.
Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke and it is the third leading cause of death, killing around 140,000 Americans each year. It is estimated to cost $34 billion each year in health care services, medications, and missed work. In addition, Stroke is the leading cause of serious long-term disability.
There are a number of risk factors for stroke that are unchangeable, such as family history, age, and genes. But there are a very large number of factors that are under our control including high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, poor diet, sedentariness, and obesity. Given this list it is clear that basic physical fitness and exercise would be excellent for stroke prevention.
The ancient mindful movement technique Tai Chi is a very safe form of gentle exercise that is even appropriate for the elderly.
http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/aging-healthily-sleeping-better-with-mindful-movement-practice/. But, can such a gentle exercise help reduce strokes by altering the risk factors for stroke. In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi Chuan for the Primary Prevention of Stroke in Middle-Aged and Elderly Adults: A Systematic Review”
Zheng and colleagues review the literature investigating this very point and find that Tai Chi does significantly reduce the incidence of non-fatal strokes and reduces a number of risk factors for stroke.
The practice of Tai Chi was found to reduce the stroke risk factors of body weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), waistline and hip circumference, blood pressure, plasma lipids and cholesterol. It even was effective in reducing these risk factors for stroke in patients with chronic diseases. It had all of these positive effects without any reported adverse effects.
It should be mentioned that the effect sizes were small to moderate. Hence, Tai Chi cannot be seen as a magical treatment for the prevention of stroke. It simply makes it less likely that a stroke might occur. Since it is safe and has many other benefits particularly for the elderly http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/08/06/age-healthily-treating-insomnia-and-inflammation/, it should be seriously considered as an exercise to assist in healthy aging.
So practice Tai Chi so you don’t get stroked!
“The most important reason to study T’ai-Chi Ch’uan is that when you finally reach the place where you understand what life is all about, you’ll have some health to enjoy it.” – Professor Cheng Man-Ch’ing
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies