Lower Body Weight and Improve Heart Health with Yoga
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“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
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 cessation, weight 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 “A Comparison of Blood Viscosity and Hematocrit Levels between Yoga Practitioners and Sedentary Adults. International journal of exercise science.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413846/), Shadiow and colleagues recruited adults who had practiced Hatha Yoga for at least 3 years and sedentary individuals who had not exercised in at least the last 6 months. After a 12 hour fast and 24 hours without exercise the participants were measured for body size, blood pressure, and blood was drawn for assays of blood viscosity and hematocrit.
They found, not surprisingly, that the yoga practitioners had significantly lower body weights and Body Mass Indices (BMIs). Importantly, the yoga practitioners had significantly lower blood viscosity values than the sedentary individuals. Low blood viscosity is associated with cardiac health. So, the results suggest that consistent long-term yoga practice in healthy individuals reduces body size and improves indicators of heart health. These conclusions need to be tempered with the understanding that this was a cross-sectional study that is open to alternative explanations. But, the results support conducting a randomized controlled clinical trial to definitively ascertain the effects of yoga practice on weight and heart health.
So, lower body weight and improve heart health with yoga.
“people who took yoga classes saw improvements in a number of factors that affect heart disease risk. They lost an average of five pounds, shaved five points off their blood pressure, and lowered their levels of harmful LDL cholesterol by 12 points.” – Julie Corliss
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Shadiow, J., Tarumi, T., Dhindsa, M., & Hunter, S. D. (2019). A Comparison of Blood Viscosity and Hematocrit Levels between Yoga Practitioners and Sedentary Adults. International journal of exercise science, 12(2), 425–432.
Elevations in whole blood viscosity (WBV) and hematocrit (Hct), have been linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Endurance training has been demonstrated to lower WBV and Hct; however, evidence supporting the efficacy of yoga on these measures is sparse. A cross-sectional study was conducted examining WBV and Hct levels between yoga practitioners with a minimum of 3 years of consistent practice and sedentary, healthy adults. Blood samples were collected from a total of 42 participants: 23 sedentary adults and 19 regular yoga practitioners. Brachial arterial blood pressure (BP) was measured and the averages of 3 measures were reported. The yoga practitioner group had significantly lower WBV at 45 s−1 (p < 0.01), 90 s−1 (p < 0.01), 220 s−1 (p < 0.05), and 450 s−1 (p < 0.05) than sedentary participants. No significant group differences in Hct (p =0.38) were found. A tendency toward lower systolic BP (p=0.06) was observed in the yoga practitioner group; however, no significant group differences in BP were exhibited. A consistent yoga practice was associated with lower WBV, a health indicator related to CVD risk. These findings support a regular yoga practice as a valid form of exercise for improving rheological indicators of cardiovascular health.