Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Yoga May Cut Heart Disease Risk Factors


Review found those who took yoga classes saw improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, weight

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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Amy Norton

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Yoga has long been believed to improve overall health, but a growing body of evidence shows the ancient practice may also help the heart, a new review finds.

In fact, the benefits were similar to those of conventional exercise such as brisk walking, said lead researcher Paula Chu, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University's Health Policy Program in Boston.

The review, of 37 clinical trials, found that people randomly assigned to take yoga classes saw improvements in their weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.

"This finding suggests that [people] who are physically limited in some way do not have to 'pound the pavement' in order to improve their cardiovascular risk profile," Chu said.

Still, studies so far have varied in quality and been relatively small and short-term, Chu's team reports in the Dec. 16 issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

"We believe there is promising evidence on the effect of yoga on improving cardiovascular risk factors," Chu said. But given the limitations of the research, she added, "we refrain from drawing any definitive conclusions."

One complicating issue is there are many different types of yoga, ranging from gentle stretching and breath work to more vigorous workouts that require a good deal of strength and flexibility.

The trials in the review varied in the types of yoga tested -- as well as the frequency of classes and the people involved. Some studies included healthy people in their 20s, while others focused on older adults or people with heart risk factors like high blood pressure.

So it's not clear whether any one type of yoga is better than others, or how often people need to practice the discipline to see benefits, according to the researchers.

But in general, Chu said, yoga was "well-accepted" by old and young alike, and offered cardiovascular benefits regardless of age.

On average, the review found, people who practiced yoga cut five points from their blood pressure, and 12 points from their LDL cholesterol (the "bad" kind). They also lost an average of five pounds.

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