Improve Cardiovascular Function with Qigong
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Heart rate, respiratory rate, systolic blood pressure and rate-pressure product were significantly decreased during Qi-training. From these results, we suggest that… Qi-training has psychological effects that indicate stabilization the of cardiovascular system.” – Michelle Fletcher
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Lifestyle changes have proved to be quite effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. These include quitting smoking, weight reduction, improved diet, physical activity, and reducing stresses. 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 other lifestyle changes needed such as smoking cessation, weight reduction and stress reduction.
Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient mindfulness practices involving slow prescribed movements. They are gentle and completely safe, can be used with the elderly and sickly, are inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility or even public park, and can be quickly learned. In addition, they can also be practiced in social groups without professional supervision. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice. Since Tai Chi and Qigong are both mindfulness practices and exercises, they may be an acceptable and effective method to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In today’s Research News article “Qigong for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6956616/), Hartley and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research literature on the effectiveness of Qigong practice to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. They identified 12 published randomized controlled trials with a total of 1369 participants.
They report that in a couple of studies that followed up 20 to 30 years after Qigong training that there was a significant reduction in all-cause mortality. They also report that Qigong training produced significant reductions in systolic blood pressure and blood fat levels including total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoproteins. They found that the published trials, though, had significant risks of bias.
The primary conclusion was that larger better controlled trials are needed. But the results are promising and suggest that Qigong training reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease. This gentle exercise may be an effective treatment to change lifestyle, increasing exercise, decreasing the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, and maybe increasing longevity.
So, improve cardiovascular function with Qigong.
“tai chi may help lower blood pressure. A review of 26 studies found average drops of several points in blood pressure values in people who did tai chi.” – Harvard Heart Letter
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Hartley, L., Lee, M. S., Kwong, J. S., Flowers, N., Todkill, D., Ernst, E., & Rees, K. (2015). Qigong for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 2015(6), CD010390. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD010390.pub2
Two major determinants of cardiovascular disease (CVD) are a sedentary lifestyle and stress. Qigong involves physical exercise, mind regulation and breathing control to restore the flow of Qi (a pivotal life energy). As it is thought to help reduce stress and involves exercise, qigong may be an effective strategy for the primary prevention of CVD.
To determine the effectiveness of qigong for the primary prevention of CVD.
We searched the following electronic databases: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (November 2014, Issue 10 of 12); MEDLINE (Ovid) (1946 to 2014 October week 4); EMBASE Classic + EMBASE (Ovid) (1947 to 2014 November 4); Web of Science Core Collection (1970 to 31 October 2014); Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE), Health Technology Assessment Database and Health Economics Evaluations Database (November 2014, Issue 4 of 4). We searched several Asian databases (inception to July 2013) and the Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED) (inception to December 2013), as well as trial registers and reference lists of reviews and articles; we also approached experts in the field and applied no language restrictions in our search.
Randomised controlled trials lasting at least three months involving healthy adults or those at high risk of CVD. Trials examined any type of qigong, and comparison groups provided no intervention or minimal intervention. Outcomes of interest included clinical CVD events and major CVD risk factors. We did not include trials that involved multi‐factorial lifestyle interventions or weight loss.
Data collection and analysis
Two review authors independently selected trials for inclusion. Two review authors extracted data from included studies and assessed the risk of bias.
We identified 11 completed trials (1369 participants) and one ongoing trial. Trials were heterogeneous in participants recruited, qigong duration and length of follow‐up periods. We were unable to ascertain the risk of bias in nine trials published in Chinese, as insufficient methodological details were reported and we were unable to contact the study authors to clarify this.
We performed no meta‐analyses, as trials were small and were at significant risk of bias. Clinical events were detailed in subsequent reports of two trials when statistically significant effects of qigong were seen for all‐cause mortality, stroke mortality and stroke incidence at 20 to 30 years after completion of the trials. However, these trials were designed to examine outcomes in the short term, and it is not clear whether qigong was practised during extended periods of follow‐up; therefore effects cannot be attributed to the intervention. None of the included studies reported other non‐fatal CVD events.
Six trials provided data that could be used to examine the effects of qigong on blood pressure. Reductions in systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were seen in three and two trials, respectively. Three trials examined the effects of qigong on blood lipids when favourable effects were seen in one trial for total cholesterol, low‐density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, and two trials showed favourable effects on high‐density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. The only trial considered at low risk of selection and detection bias did not demonstrate statistically significant effects on CVD risk factors with qigong, but this study was small and was underpowered. None of the included studies reported incidence of type 2 diabetes (T2D), adverse events, quality of life or costs.
Currently, very limited evidence is available on the effectiveness of qigong for the primary prevention of CVD. Most of the trials included in this review are likely to be at high risk of bias, so we have very low confidence in the validity of the results. Publication of the ongoing trial will add to the limited evidence base, but further trials of high methodological quality with sufficient sample size and follow‐up are needed to be incorporated in an update of this review before the effectiveness of qigong for CVD prevention can be established.