The Well-Being Journal

Power of Yoga to Improve Cardiovascular Risk

Amy Katz

Is yoga good for your heart? It could be as healthy for your heart as cycling.

According to a new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, yoga may be as beneficial as more traditional physical activities such as walking or biking in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.

Investigators from the United States and Netherlands conducted a systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials, which included 2,768 subjects. The aim of the analysis was to examine whether yoga is beneficial in managing and improving cardiovascular disease risk factors and whether it could be an effective therapy for cardiovascular health.

The study compared those who practiced yoga with those who didn’t. Those who practiced yoga had:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Increased HDL (good cholesterol)

Results showed that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those practicing yoga than in those not taking part in any aerobic exercise. In fact, yoga had an effect on risk factors comparable to aerobic exercise.

The study’s authors write, “This finding is significant, as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in [cardiovascular] risk reduction.” They go on to observe that “Yoga has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment and prevention strategy given its low cost, lack of expensive equipment or technology, potential greater adherence and health-related quality of life improvements, and possible accessibility to larger segments of the population.”

The prevalence and cost of cardiac disease is growing. As the number 1 cause of death in America, heart disease accounts for some 600,000 deaths per year. Indeed, 40 percent of the U.S. population is expected to have some form of cardiovascular disease in the next 20 years, according to the American Heart Association. The cost of heart disease in healthcare services, medications, and lost productivity tops $109 billion per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The American Heart Association still recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, but this study could lead to yoga as a recommended therapy for patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Linking yoga to cardiovascular health is not a new concept—for over 30 years, Dr. Dean Ornish has recommended yoga for reducing stress. In fact, the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart DiseaseTM includes yoga as one of the fundamental activities for reversing heart disease. To learn more about the Ornish program, please visit www.undoitwithornish.com.

Topics: Prevention Science and Research Health Status Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

Understanding Well-Being in Europe, Region of Strong Contrasts

Madison Agee

In a recent webinar, experts from Gallup and Healthways shared insights into the state of well-being in Europe. Using data from the recently released Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index™, the panelists discussed issues ranging from why well-being measurement matters to the specific challenges that Europe is facing regarding well-being. They also proposed some steps European nations can take to improve well-being, such as leveraging evidence-based tools and respecting cultural differences when delivering solutions.

The Global Well-Being Index is a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being. The most comprehensive measure of well-being in the world, the Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals to capture the important aspects of how people feel about and experience their daily lives, extending well beyond conventional measures of physical health or economic indicators. The five elements of well-being are purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

When it comes to well-being, Europe is a region characterized by considerable disparity among countries. On one end of the spectrum are countries such as Denmark, Austria and Sweden, whose percentages of residents thriving in more than three elements are 40, 39 and 36 percent, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum are Albania, Italy and Croatia, which all have fewer than 8 percent of their residents thriving in three or more elements.

One element in which Europe is particularly strong is financial well-being. As a region, Europe leads the world in this element, with 37 percent of Europeans thriving in financial well-being (versus 25 percent worldwide). The top seven countries in the world with the highest financial well-being are all located in northern or central Europe. Sweden has the world’s highest financial well-being, with 72 percent of residents thriving in this element. The other six European countries leading the world in this element are Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Iceland and Belgium.

When looking at the percentage of residents thriving, European results for the other well-being elements are as follows:

  • Purpose (22 percent thriving in Europe versus 18 percent worldwide)
  • Social (27 percent versus 23 percent)
  • Community (28 percent versus 26 percent)
  • Physical (22 percent versus 24 percent) 
Well-Being in Europe

Well-Being in Europe

Physical well-being is the one element in which Europe is slightly behind global numbers. In Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and Croatia, 15 percent or less of the population is thriving in this element. Even in France, with its universal healthcare system and high life expectancy, only 15 percent of residents are thriving in physical well-being.

The impact of the global recession is still being felt in the region, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, where unemployment is still high. Naturally, this will affect financial well-being, and we see low percentages of residents thriving in this element in countries such as Greece (11 percent), Serbia (12 percent), Bosnia-Herzegovina (13 percent) and Romania (15 percent).

The weak job market also impacts the purpose element of well-being, since this element centers on liking what you do each day. In Southern and Eastern European countries such as Albania, Croatia and Greece, where unemployment remains in the double digits, residents are much less likely to be thriving in this element (7 percent to 8 percent) than those in Western European nations such as Denmark (45 percent), Austria (36 percent) and Sweden (33 percent), where unemployment rates are much lower.

To learn more about well-being in Europe, you can replay our webinar “Measuring Matters: Insights on Europe from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index”. You can also download our State of Global Well-Being Report, which has details on Europe and much more.

Topics: Well-Being Well-Being Index Gallup

Well-Being in Asia Pacific, the World’s Most Populous Region

Madison Agee

Asia Pacific is a region characterized by a wide range of wealth and development, with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan on one end of the spectrum and countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan on the other. As uncovered by the recently released Gallup-Healthways Global Well-Being Index™, the distribution of well-being is likewise quite broad. New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and the Philippines all have more than 24 percent of their residents thriving in three or more elements of well-being, while Bhutan has only 8 percent and Afghanistan has only 1 percent.

The Global Well-Being Index is a definitive measure and empiric database of real-time changes in well-being. The most comprehensive measure of well-being in the world, the Index uses a holistic definition of well-being and self-reported data from individuals to capture the important aspects of how people feel about and experience their daily lives, extending well beyond conventional measures of physical health or economic indicators. The five elements of well-being are purpose, social, financial, community and physical.

The Global Well-Being Index reveals that in three of the five well-being elements, the region is fairly close to the world averages in terms of the percentage of residents thriving in that element:

  • Financial (25 percent in both Asia Pacific and worldwide)
  • Community (25 percent in Asia Pacific versus 26 percent worldwide)
  • Physical (23 percent in Asia Pacific versus 24 percent worldwide)

 

Well-Being in APAC_Radar Chart
Well-Being in Asia Pacific

In the other two well-being elements, Asia Pacific is lagging behind global averages. In purpose well-being, only 13 percent of residents are thriving, compared with 18 percent worldwide. The Philippines, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand top the region in this element, whereas only 1 percent of Afghans are thriving in purpose. The Philippines has the region’s highest purpose well-being percentage, at 32 percent. Filipinos have historically reported high positivity related to employment, which may explain their strong showing in this element.

The other element in which Asia Pacific trails the global number is social well-being. In Asia Pacific, 19 percent are thriving, as opposed to 23 percent globally. Forty-three percent of Mongolians and 42 percent of Vietnamese report thriving in social well-being (more than double the regional percentage). Once again, on the opposite end of the range is Afghanistan, with less than half of 1 percent of residents thriving.

In a recent webinar, panelists from Gallup and Healthways provided attendees with an exclusive and in-depth analysis of the findings for Asia Pacific. They provided an overview of well-being within the region, including a more extensive look at select countries, such as China, India and Indonesia. The panelists explained the importance of measuring well-being and offered proposed solutions as to what countries within the region can do to improve well-being.

To learn more about well-being in Asia Pacific, you can replay our webinar “Measuring Matters: Insights on Asia Pacific from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index”. You can also download our State of Global Well-Being Report, which has details on Asia Pacific and much more.

Topics: Well-Being In the News Well-Being Index Gallup