Decrease Cardiovascular Disease Risk with Yoga

Decrease Cardiovascular Disease Risk with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“Yoga is designed to bring about increased physical, mental and emotional well-being. Hand in hand with leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, it really is possible for a yoga-based model to help prevent or reverse heart disease. It may not completely reverse it, but you will definitely see benefits.” – M. Mala Cunningham


Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year–that’s 1 in every 4 deaths. Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.” (Centers for Disease Control). A myriad of treatments has been developed for heart disease including a variety of surgical procedures and medications. In addition, lifestyle changes have proved to be effective including quitting smoking, weight reduction, improved diet, physical activity, and reducing stresses. Cardiac rehabilitation programs for patients recovering from a heart failure, emphasize these lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, 60% of heart failure patients decline participation, making these patients at high risk for another attack.


Safe and effective alternative treatments for cardiovascular disease are contemplative practices, such as meditation, tai chi, and yoga, have also been shown to be helpful for heart health. These practices have also been shown to be helpful for producing the kinds of lifestyle changes needed to prevent heart disease such as smoking cessationweight reduction, and stress reduction. Indeed, yoga practice is both a mindfulness training technique and a physical exercise. As such, it would seem particularly interesting to explore as a treatment to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.


In today’s Research News article “Yoga as an Alternative and Complimentary Therapy for Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ),  Haider and colleagues reviewed and summarized the published research literature on the effects of yoga practice on risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


They found 12 published studies, 7 of which were randomized controlled trials. There were large differences in the methodology, duration of practice, and measures employed in these studies. Nevertheless all 12 studies reported significant improvements in at least one cardiovascular disease risk factor. These included “both physical and mental factors, including body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, anxiety, depression, quality of life, weight, and pulmonary function.” Hence, the published research literature suggests that yoga practice is a safe and effective treatment that can reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease.


So, decrease cardiovascular disease risk with yoga.


“A large number of studies show that yoga benefits many aspects of cardiovascular health. There’s been a major shift in the last five years or so in the number of cardiologists and other professionals recognizing that these benefits are real.” – Hugh Calkins


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Haider, T., Sharma, M., & Branscum, P. (2017). Yoga as an Alternative and Complimentary Therapy for Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 22(2), 310–316.



Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of disability and death worldwide. Yoga, a mind-body exercise, utilizes breathing techniques with low-impact physical activity that may be an alternative treatment for cardiovascular disease. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine yoga interventions for patients at-risk for and/or suffering from cardiovascular disease. The inclusion criteria for interventions were (a) published in the English language between 2005 and 2015; (b) indexed in MEDLINE/PubMed, CINAHL, or Alt HealthWatch; (c) employed a quantitative design; and (d) applied a yoga intervention. Twelve interventions met the inclusion criteria, of which, all documented significant improvements in one or more factors associated with cardiovascular disease. Limitations to the studies in this review included a lack of studies adhering to the inclusion criteria, small sample sizes, and high attrition rates. Despite the limitations, this review demonstrates the clear potential yoga has as an alternative and complementary means to improve cardiovascular disease risk.


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