Cardiac Rehabilitation and Tai Chi
By Bill Douglas - reprinted here with permission
Great news for those rehabilitating from Cardiac related illness! And for everyone else! The BBC reported on a US study of 30 patients which found regular Tai Chi classes gave patients better movement and reduced BNP levels, a measure of heart failure. The British Heart Foundation said the study was "excellent news" and Tai Chi could be adopted into treatment programmes in the UK in the future. In fact, another study in The Harvard Women’s Health Watch, reported, “studies support Tai Chi [use] for heart-attack and cardiac-bypass patients, to improve cardio-respiratory function and reduce blood pressure." While, the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine reported that Tai Chi “results in favorable lipid profile changes and improve subjects' anxiety status. Therefore, Tai Chi could be used as an alternative modality in treating patients with mild hypertension, with a promising economic effect.”
This lowering of high blood pressure and creating more favorable lipid levels bodes well for all of us. A study in the Journal of American Geriatrics reported data substantiating that practicing T'ai Chi regularly may delay the decline of cardioresperatory function in older individuals. In addition, TC may be prescribed as a suitable aerobics exercise for older adults.
Tai Chi is shown to lower high blood pressure in several studies. An article in WebMD explains that the anger-associated hormones coming from the adrenal gland, located on or near the kidneys when over stimulated result in higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They reported that William H. Mueller, PhD (Behavioural epidemiologist and professor of behavioural sciences at the School of Public Health at the University of Texas in Houston), explained that Tai Chi is documented to calm those “fight or flight” chemicals and promote healing.
Once we realize that heart disease, like most illness, is caused by stress it is easy to see why Tai Chi is such an effective preventative or rehabilitative therapy for heart disease and health (Kaiser Permente 20 year study found 70 to 85% of illness sending patients to their doctors were caused by stress). At the Institute of Psychology, Academia Sinica, a research study found that Tai Chi and QiGong practice can positively affect the states of mind of subjects to lessen the incidence of Type-A behavior patterns, believed to increase the risk of heart disease. As early as 1989, the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, reported on a study finding that “Relative to measurement beforehand, practice of T'ai Chi raised heart rate, increased nonadrenaline excretion in urine, and decreased salivary cortisol concentration. Relative to baseline levels, [Test Subjects] reported less tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion and state-anxiety; they felt more vigorous, and in general they had less total mood disturbance.”
Tai Chi is perhaps the lowest impact exercise one can do, and is gentle and easy enough to do in business clothes at the office. Yet, recent studies show that Tai Chi can provide much the same cardiovascular benefit as moderate impact aerobics. In fact, a study from the Journal of American Geriatrics reported by Reuters found that Tai Chi lowered high blood pressure in older adults even more than regular aerobics. The fact that Tai Chi can do this without speeding up their heart rates, changes the way medicine looks at cardio vascular physical therapies. Dr. Deborah Rohm Young, of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland (a researcher in this study) said that these finding ``suggest that (exercise) intensity may be less important than other factors'' when it comes to lowering high blood pressure.
Yet, there may be another aspect of Tai Chi that helps prevent heart disease. An odd study result appeared a few years ago showing a correlation between regular dental flossing and reduced heart disease. Some speculate that the reduction of chronic gum infections that flossing fosters, makes life easier for the heart which is strained by the body fighting infections. This is where Tai Chi comes in, because research is now revealing that Tai Chi profoundly boosts the body’s ability to fight viral infections. A study conducted in China indicates that T'ai Chi may increase the number of T lymphocytes in the body. Also know as T-Cells, these lymphocytes help the immune system destroy bacteria and possibly even tumor cells. A more recent study at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), in what is believed to be the first study of its kind conducted in the United States, researchers have shown that behavioral interventions and integrative exercise programs such as tai chi can have a direct, positive effect on the immune system in older adults. The September/October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine reported that the scientists found "a nearly 50 percent increase" of varicella virus responder cells in Tai Chi Chih (TCC) patients from the start of the study to the one-week post-TCC period. On a patient-by-patient basis, levels of memory T-cells increased in nine TCC patients, remained unchanged in seven patients and decreased in one patient. In the control group, memory T-cell levels increased in three patients, were unchanged in eight patients and decreased in five patients.
Fact is that all the same benefits Tai Chi and Qigong (Chi Kung) provide those in heart health therapy, or cardiac rehabilitation, are the benefits that bode well for everyone. Tai Chi’s uniquely multidimensional benefits put it in a class by itself as far as comprehensive benefits provided by one easy to use, gentle on the body, fitness regimen. The exercise entwines the mind, body, and emotional systems and the chemicals that link these aspects of ourselves to create a powerful life enhancing tool, as well as a health & fitness tool. As modern medicine continues to discover the links between the heart, mind, and physical health, Tai Chi will increasingly emerge as a giant in the future of modern health care.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Bill Douglas is the Tai Chi Expert at DrWeil.com, Founder of World T'ai Chi & Qigong Day (held in 60 nations each year), and has authored and co-authored several books including a #1 best selling Tai Chi book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi & Qigong. Bill’s been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc. Bill is the author of the ebook, How to be a Successful Tai Chi Teacher(Namasta University Publishing). You can learn more about Tai Chi & Qigong, search a worldwide teachers directory, and also contact Bill Douglas at http://www.worldtaichiday.org
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