From: Susan Kelly, Reuters
Published November 5, 2007 06:30 PM

Yoga found to boost health in heart failure patients

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - An eight-week regimen of yoga proved safe for patients with chronic heart failure and helped reduce signs of inflammation often linked with death, according to a study released on Monday.

More than 5 million Americans have chronic heart failure, a long-term condition in which the heart no longer pumps blood efficiently to the body's other organs. Health problems and deaths from the disease remain high despite widespread use of effective drug and device therapies to treat the condition.

Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta who measured the effects of an eight-week yoga regimen on 19 heart failure patients found the exercise routine reduced markers of inflammation associated with heart failure while also improving exercise tolerance and quality of life.

"Many people believe the addition of yoga may be beneficial in cardiac rehabilitation," said the researchers, whose findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association. "Furthermore, it may be that yoga has an impact on the mechanisms of action involved in the progression of heart failure."

The study found significant differences in levels of biological markers in the blood -- interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and extra-cellular superoxide dismutase -- between patients who completed the yoga therapy and those who received standard medical therapy. Patients on yoga therapy completed the regimen without complications.

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Patients who did yoga saw a 26 percent decrease in symptoms on a standard assessment that measures quality of life in heart failure patients, compared to a 3 percent decrease for the patients on medical therapy alone.

"Yoga is aerobic. It is not surprising, in terms of its effects on the inflammatory markers," said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, who prescribes both yoga and tai chi, a Chinese martial art, to her heart failure and heart attack patients.

Goldberg, a professor of medicine at New York University, said heart failure patients often have trouble with exercise due to fatigue and shortness of breath caused by the heart's reduced pumping ability.

"What's nice is they found not only does it reduce inflammatory markers, but it is a safe form of exercise and it improves the quality of their lives," Goldberg said.

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