If you think that you only have to worry about having a heart attack in order to fall victim to heart disease, you are sadly mistaken.
Heart disease takes the lives of over 610,000 people each year in the United States and is the leading cause of death for both men and women, not with-standing the increasing COVID-19 death tool.
Any medical condition that affects your heart and blood vessels is called cardiovascular disease. Many people have fatty plaque building up in their coronary arteries, resulting in less blood flow to their heart, thereby increasing their risk for a heart attack or stroke.
If you eat healthy, exercise on a regular basis and find ways to control your stress, congratulations are in order, because you are taking responsibility for your heart health. But millions of people do not eat right, very rarely exercise and are stressed to the breaking point. And eventually they will either have a heart attack, or will be convinced by a medical professional to do something about their condition.
Between medications and a workout routine at the gym, many people will start to get back on the right track and avoid problems with their heart health. But don’t think that your only options are to spend hours each week on the treadmill or take up jogging in order to maintain your heart health.
Yoga Just Might be What Your Doctor Orders.
Yoga is a mind-body activity that involves moving through a series of body poses and breathing exercises that can improve strength, flexibility, balance and relaxation. Dozens of different formats, or practices, such as hatha, ashtanga and many others, emphasize different focuses, such as toning, strength training or meditation.
Many people are discovering that yoga has the ability to protect them from heart disease just as much as jogging and cycling, according to a study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology
The researchers looked at over 30 studies on yoga and heart health, and the science indicates that people who do yoga reduce their risk of heart disease just as much as people who do traditional forms of cardio.
2000+ Years of Yoga; Designed for Prevention
“Why yoga? Think prevention! As part of an overall healthy lifestyle, yoga can help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function and heart rate, and boost circulation and muscle tone. Yoga also has proven benefits for those who have faced cardiac arrest, heart attack or other heart events,” says Dr. Donna Arnett, American Heart Association Volunteer Expert. “Yoga is designed to bring about increased physical, mental and emotional well-being. “After your first yoga class, your blood pressure will likely be lower, you’ll be relaxed and you’ll feel better.”
Neda Gould, PhD, is the Director of the Mindfulness Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and says that the current research regarding yoga and cardio health is promising. “There is good evidence that yoga can improve cardiovascular-related outcomes, such as blood pressure and heart rate, and even blood glucose, lipid profiles, and body mass index. Yoga can also lead to improvements in psychological health such as depression and anxiety, which are factors related to cardiovascular health,” says Neda. “When you practice yoga, you are including meditation and controlled breathing, two factors that can contribute to improved cardiovascular health outcomes.”
How you handle stress is a major contributing factor in heart disease, according to medical researchers at Harvard University. When stress rears its ugly head and begins to cause chaos in your life, your heart rate and blood pressure immediately begin to rise to unsafe levels. That alone can cause injury to your heart and the surrounding blood vessels.
Yoga, because of its ability to help a person reduce their stress and maintain a more relaxed state, is becoming more popular these days.
Heart disease patients who practiced yoga, in addition to aerobic exercise, saw twice the reduction in blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels when compared to patients who practiced either Indian yoga or aerobic exercise alone, according to research that was presented at the American College of Cardiology Middle East Conference in the fall of 2017 in Dubai.
One of yoga’s clearest benefits to the heart is its ability to relax the body and mind. Emotional stress can cause a cascade of physical effects, including the release of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which narrow your arteries and increase blood pressure. The deep breathing and mental focus of yoga can offset this stress.
Worry and depression commonly follow a cardiac event, such as a heart attack, bypass surgery or diagnosis of heart disease. As part of an overall treatment plan, yoga can help you manage this stress.
“A large number of studies show that yoga benefits many aspects of cardiovascular health,” says Hugh Calkins, M.D., director of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Johns Hopkins. “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.”
If you have never done yoga before it can be very discouraging if you end up in a class with more experienced people who are doing poses that seem impossible for you to try.
5 Suggestions When Starting A New Yoga Practice
Talk with your cardiologist or primary care physician before starting any new exercise program, including yoga. They can make sure you are ready and guide you to the right class or teacher.
Some people feel more comfortable with trying yoga at home. YOGA.HEALTH™ can serve as your introduction. If you have a friend who has been curious about yoga, perhaps the two of you can try a beginner yoga exercise program together.
If you are taking beta blockers you will want to avoid “hot yoga,” because the high temperatures may trigger a negative reaction and cause you additional health problems.
Be very careful and pick out the poses that are best for you. For example, if you have had open heart surgery you will need to avoid upper body weight bearing postures, such as the downward facing dog or crow pose until you have been cleared by your cardiologist.
When you are ready to find a yoga studio and get serious about your journey, realize that the relationship between the yoga teacher and the yoga student is very important. Shop around and see what programs and locations are available. Ask friends and family members who are into yoga for referrals and suggestions.
As time moves forward and you find yourself enjoying yoga and the many health and heart benefits it has to offer, you will be choosing a much healthier lifestyle.