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

Dr. Dean Ornish on Sustaining Lifestyle Changes

Sandy Cummings

Dr. Dean Ornish has been a part of the Healthways family for not quite a year now. As he travels the world, discussing both the impact of positive lifestyle changes and the best ways to go about about making sure those changes can be sustained, I'm often struck by how consistent and powerful his messages are.

For example, in this HuffPost video, where he says, "Fear, shame and guilt are not sustainable."

Or in this Parade article, which leads off with his reassuring, "Your genes are not your fate."

And then, when comparing lifestyle change to traditional medical approaches: "These simple lifestyle changes work even better at a fraction of the cost, and the only side effects are good ones," which he shared recently in Everyday Health.

Dr. Ornish is at the forefront of a movement to change our nation's emphasis on "sick care" -- work so powerful, it's becoming the cornerstone of healthcare reform initiatives, as this article in USA Today describes.

Whether you're grappling with chronic disease or simply living a life that somehow feels like it's missing the mark, having a clear path to well-being improvement makes a big difference. I hope you'll spend a few minutes with Dr. Ornish via this coverage and start walking down that path.

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being In the News Healthcare Health Community Prevention Wellness Healthways Chronic Disease Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

What You Need to Know About Trans Fats

James Kanka

Dr. Dean Ornish succinctly sums it up in a quote printed in both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today:

"Trans fats increase the shelf life of foods but decrease the shelf life of humans."

Last Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that trans fats are unsafe in food. Trans fats, originally engineered as a "healthier alternative" to saturated fats, by using oils, have since been universally acknowledged as bad for you — contributing to as many as 20,000 heart attacks a year.

The FDA has yet to issue a ban on trans fats in foods, but restaurants and food companies have already begun reworking their recipes. Dr. Dean Ornish advised McDonald's and PepsiCo on removing trans fats from their foods years ago.

So, while trans fats may already be disappearing from the food you eat, this ruling shines a spotlight on the importance of eating right. Mothers everywhere have been telling their children to do so since the dawn of time, but now organizations are doing the same, and new research is backing them up. In a recent Healthways study, employees who ate healthy all day were 25% more likely to report higher job performance and were absent less.

When companies invest in the health and well-being of their employees, it's a win-win situation. Just another reason we are excited at Healthways to make Dr. Dean Ornish's 30-plus years of diet expertise and lifestyle change accessible to millions.

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Topics: In the News Workplace Well-Being Business Performance Health Prevention Trans Fats Productivity Government FDA Diet Ornish Lifestyle Medicine