Millions of Americans suffer from heart failure with an increasing incidence among African Americans. Heart failure adversely affects many body organs by decreasing their oxygen and nutrient supply. The prognosis is grim, with less than half of heart failure patients living five years after diagnosis. Now research reports that yoga therapy can improve cardiovascular endurance, heart inflammation, flexibility and quality of life in patients with heart failure.
The randomized controlled study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, investigated the effect of yoga therapy on patients with heart failure. Researchers from Georgia State University in Atlanta, designated either yoga therapy sessions or a control group to 40 patients with heart failure for 8 to 10 weeks. The participants included 38 African Americans, 1 Asian and 1 Caucasian. Treadmill, flexibility, EKG tests, blood samples and quality of life questionnaire responses were obtained from the participants on the first and last day of the program.
All of the patients participated in a home walk program. The yoga group also participated in 16 regular sessions of yoga therapy for heart disease patients.
The researchers found that the yoga group had a 22 percent improvement in aerobic capacity. Furthermore, flexibility was improved by more than 4 cm on sit-and-reach tests. Findings also revealed that the yoga group had decreased inflammatory markers and improved quality of life scores.
“It’s important to note the marked improvements in both physical and mental health with these patients, as around 25 percent of heart-failure sufferers experience severe depression,” says researcher Paula R. Pullen, Ph.D. at Georgia State University, in a news release. “They often feel their lives are ‘over’ after a cardiac event and physical activity – in this case, yoga – can help curb those emotions.”
The Main Point
This study is important because it shows that yoga therapy offers medically effective and cost-effective heart health and mental health benefits.
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Pullen PR et al. The Benefits of Yoga for African American Heart Failure Patients. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Nov 27. [Epub ahead of print]
Yoga Improves Physical, Mental Health in African-American Heart Failure Patients. American College of Sports Medicine News Release, March 31, 2010.
Gavalas, Elaine. The Yoga Minibook for Stress Relief. Simon & Schuster Fireside. elainegavalas.com .