Improve Cardiac Function in Heart Failure Patients with Tai Chi
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Tai chi may be a useful form of exercise for cardiac rehab programs, as it’s safe for high-risk patients. Findings also suggest that tai chi alone may be beneficial for patients who are unwilling to participate in a rehab program.” – CardioSmart
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, claiming more lives than all forms of cancer combined. There are myriads of treatments that have been developed to treat Heart Failure including a variety of surgical procedures and medications. Importantly, lifestyle changes have proved to be quite effective. 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.
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. 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 is both a mindfulness practice and an exercise, it may be an acceptable and effective treatment for heart failure patients.
In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi exercise and functional electrical stimulation of lower limb muscles for rehabilitation in older adults with chronic systolic heart failure: a non-randomized clinical trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6886363/), Hao and colleagues recruited elderly (>70 years) heart failure patients and assigned them to receive either 1-hour, twice a week, for 12 weeks Tai Chi practice or 30-minutes, five times per week of functional electrical stimulation of lower limb muscles (FEW), or both Tai Chi and FES, or to a no-treatment control condition. They were measured before and after the interventions for quality of life, depression, arterial flow mediated dilatation, mobility, and peak oxygen consumption.
They found that in comparison to the control group, all interventions groups had improved quality of life and cardiorespiratory functions. They had significantly improved arterial flow mediated dilatation; a measure associated with lower mortality in heart failure patients. The Tai Chi group also had decreased resting heart rate which, in turn, reduced peak oxygen consumption.
The results suggest that both Tai Chi practice and functional electrical stimulation of lower limb muscles improves the quality of life and cardiorespiratory functions in elderly heart failure patients. Additionally, Tai Chi practice lowered heart rates suggesting improved physical fitness. Hence, these interventions are recommended for the treatment of elderly heart failure patients.
Tai Chi, however, may be preferred due to its high levels of adherence and enjoyability.
So, improve cardiac function in heart failure patients with Tai Chi.
“it’s a reasonable and safe step to offer tai chi within cardiac rehab. If someone says they are afraid of exercising, we could ask if they are interested in doing tai chi.” – Elena Salmoriago-Blotcher
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Hao, Y., Zhang, L., Zhang, Z., Chen, L., He, N., & Zhu, S. (2019). Tai Chi exercise and functional electrical stimulation of lower limb muscles for rehabilitation in older adults with chronic systolic heart failure: a non-randomized clinical trial. Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas medicas e biologicas, 52(12), e8786. doi:10.1590/1414-431X20198786
Exercise-based training decreases hospitalizations in heart failure patients but such patients have exercise intolerance. The objectives of the study were to evaluate the effect of 12 weeks of Tai Chi exercise and lower limb muscles’ functional electrical stimulation in older chronic heart failure adults. A total of 1,084 older adults with chronic systolic heart failure were included in a non-randomized clinical trial (n=271 per group). The control group did not receive any kind of intervention, one group received functional electrical stimulation of lower limb muscles (FES group), another group practiced Tai Chi exercise (TCE group), and another received functional electrical stimulation of lower limb muscles and practiced Tai Chi exercise (FES & TCE group). Quality of life and cardiorespiratory functions of all patients were evaluated. Compared to the control group, only FES group had increased Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire (KCCQ) score (P<0.0001, q=9.06), only the TCE group had decreased heart rate (P<0.0001, q=5.72), and decreased peak oxygen consumption was reported in the TCE group (P<0.0001, q=9.15) and FES & TCE group (P<0.0001, q=10.69). FES of lower limb muscles and Tai Chi exercise can recover the quality of life and cardiorespiratory functions of older chronic heart failure adult