Yoga-like relaxation therapy lowers BP

May 19, 2010 by  

Ok, so practicing yoga is associated with female intellectuals with leanings towards spirituality and alternative medicine and blue-collar males would never have anything to do with it. But what if it really works in lowering blood pressure? How do motivate the machos to give it a try?

To avoid preconceptions that their patients– mainly working-age workmen undergoing cardiac rehabilitation – have about yoga, the researchers simply called it relaxation/stress reduction therapy and compared to the standard therapy in this patient population called progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Thus, the patients were actually “blinded” to the therapy they were randomized to, simply called relaxation 1 (yoga) and relaxation 2 (PMR).

PMR is “a technique based on alternate tensing and relaxing of muscles … used to reduce stress and anxiety.” The yoga practice used was Vinyoga.

A total of 340 male patients undergoing cardiac rehabilitation and suffering from hypertension were randomly assigned to either relaxation 1 or relaxation 2 therapies 5 times weekly for 3 weeks at a rehabilitation center. Most of the patients were taking several antihypertensive drugs. After 3 weeks, the patients were asked to continue the relaxation practice at home.

After 3 weeks, decrease in systolic blood pressure levels was significantly more in the yoga group than in the PMR group. The blood pressure-lowering effect of yoga was especially pronounced among those with the highest systolic blood pressure at baseline.

However, adherence to the relaxation therapy in the home setting proved to be difficult. After 6 months, only 50% of the PMR group was practicing relaxation therapy once a week. Adherence is even lower in the yoga group, at 30% after 6 months. Despite these seemingly high drop out rates, the authors claim these adherence rates are actually higher than those reported by previous studies using standard rehab programs.

The Vinyoga seems to be especially promising in fighting hypertension if only the patients will be motivated enough to continue the practice beyond the rehab center setting. Ways of motivating these patients – men expected to return to their manual and usually physically taxing jobs – need to be explored. Calling the practice yoga would definitely dampen the enthusiasm rather quickly.

According to lead researcher Dr Wolfgang Mayer-Berger,

“[It is] too early to make yoga a part of usual cardiac-rehabilitation therapy [but] maybe this is really an everyday therapy we can use.”

Follow-up studies are being planned to confirm the blood pressure lowering effects of yoga.

Dance your heart back to health

June 26, 2008 by  

Those rehab exercises can be a bore sometimes. Treadmill, cycles, weights, sit-ups…I’m sure many cardiac patients on rehab get sick of these exercises and are simply tempted to stop. Well, this Mexican doctor may just have found a better alternative…What about dancing?

Dr Paula Quiroga of the National Institute of Cardiology Ignacio Chavez of Mexico City went for dancing steps instead of the usual rehab routine and got better results.

In a two-year observational study, a formal rehab regimen that substituted dance routines based on familiar ballroom and night-club dances for more conventional exercises allowed participants to safely achieve comparable exercise levels and muscle-training effects and left them wanting to come back for more.

reports Heartwire.

Dr Quiroga’s patients consisted of 560 people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s with ischemic or valvular heart disease, chronic heart failure, or congenital heart disease. The patients were taught special dance steps corresponding to different levels of exertion. Dance routines to the blues served as warm-ups. For low intensity exercise, dance steps to rock and roll music were performed. For intermediate intensity exercises, steps following the Cuban danzón rhythms worked well, while vigorous salsa steps served best for the highest levels of exertion. The patients were fitted with monitors which transmitted the readings of blood pressure and heart rates to a physical therapist at a central control station.

Over two years, the participants developed no serious arrhythmias, angina, or other important complications while dancing, and some showed only occasional runs of ventricular ectopia. Overall, the group experienced few complications, even with 70% of them considered at high clinical risk,

reports Dr Quiroga.

 She’s not the only one who swears to this rather unconventional but effective rehab programs. Other Latin American doctors report more compliance from their patients when using dance routines rather than normal rehab programs. Of course Latin Americans are known for their love of dancing so I think the programs’s success is a cultural thing. The dancing rehab program hasn’t been tested in another cultural setting.

If you were to choose, which type of rehab would you go for? I am not fond of dancing myself so think I’d go for the more conventional type of rehab program. I would feel more at home in a treadmill than on a dance floor.

I think it doesn’t matter which rehab program you go for, it isometric exercises, dancing or aerobics. The key is that it should be something which is fun and enjoyable so that the patients will come back for more.


Quiroga PV, Ruis-Suarez MD, Ilarraza-Lomell H, et al. Dance-hall dancing in patients with cardiovascular disease: Experience of 2 years. Presented at the World Congress of Cardiology 2008; May 20, 2008; Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Cardiac Rehabilitation – A Holistic Way To Improve Health Of People With Heart Problems

April 7, 2007 by  

By Moses Wright

Cardiac rehabilitation is a form of therapy and rehabilitation that not many have heard about. Patients who have suffered a heart attack or undergone bypass surgery, their doctors would tend to recommend cardiac rehabilitation. Such rehabilitation is helpful as the patient usually needs to modify his lifestyle to some extent to maintain their best physical condition. Each program is uniquely catered to meet the needs of the patients, taking into consideration factors such as the patient’s age and weight as well as other prevailing illnesses.

A cardiac rehabilitation program aims to improve the overall health of the patient and is relatively holistic. The program also takes into consideration the specific heart problems the patient has and the underlying causes for the heart condition. Some of the areas of focus would include nutrition and weight loss, managing depression and stress, as well as improving the patient’s sense of self-esteem. In some cases, patients withdraw from life due to fear and anxiety issues; such factors are taken into consideration and the rehabilitation program would include therapy to help the patient deal with such emotional stress.

A doctor would first have to evaluate the health status of the patient, to determine the ideal nutritional and exercise plan. In some cases, dietary restrictions could be placed upon the patient to reduce fat and caloric intake. The patient is also taught measures to help him cope with stress and emotional issue, which are all possible causes and triggers for heart problems. Depression counseling is another avenue that is available to the patient should the doctor feel that the patient needs help to cope with negative feelings.

Such rehabilitation is suitable for patients who have long term or continuing heart conditions. Undergoing such rehabilitation may actually help to increase their life expectancy. Naturally, patients who have suffered from heart attacks previously are good candidates for the rehabilitation program. Others who might wish to consider the program are those who suffer from chest pains. However, this is determined on a case by case basis, as you will need to check with your doctor before going for cardiac rehabilitation. This is because people with unstable heart conditions or are undergoing other medical treatments concurrently might not be suitable.

However, not many are deemed suitable for cardiac rehabilitation, only about ten to twenty percent of individuals who are diagnosed with heart problems are enrolled in the program. This could be due to doctors who do not refer their patients for such rehabilitative programs. Distance and a lack of such programs in certain areas might be another influencing factor. Some patients choose not to enroll in the program due to a lack of insurance coverage, or some might have no wish to change their lifestyles.

If you are unsure about the course of action if you are at risk for heart problems or if you have experienced heart related issues, do consult with your doctor about starting a rehabilitation program. Obtain a referral from your doctor since this will make it easier to get financial assistance for the program.

Moses Wright is the founder of Rehabilitation Program. He provides more useful information on Drug Addiction Rehabilitation and Physical Rehabilitation Therapy on his website. Webmasters are welcome to reprint this article if you keep the content and live link intact.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.