Being diagnosed with heart disease need not always mean a lifetime of angiographies, angioplasty or bypass surgery. A daily dose of yoga, along with a low cholesterol diet and an active lifestyle can be a recipe for further progression and in some cases, reversal of the disease.
This is not pop science. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that even short-term lifestyle changes that include yoga and diet modifications reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The study, done by Dr Ramesh L. Bijlani, former professor and head, department of physiology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), found that a 10-day yoga-based lifestyle modification programme had a favourable impact on health within a very short period.
Go to a doctor if you have one or more of the following risk factors.
Smokers get heart attacks a decade before they would if they didn’t smoke.
High blood pressure
A systolic blood pressure of over 140 or a diastolic pressure of 90.
Low HDL cholesterol
HDL should be over 40; if it is over 60, it cancels out one of the other risk factors.
If a father or brother had heart disease before age 55 or your mother or sister had it before age 65
Diabetics are as equal risk to those who have already had a heart attack .
A waist size larger than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women
Men aged 45 or older and women aged 55 or older
He found that after just 10 days, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol) and very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL cholesterol) were significantly lowered, along with total cholesterol and fasting glucose levels. Simultaneously, high-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol) increased in all participants.
“Lowering blood pressure, reducing chronic stress can boost the immune system. Yoga has an important role in preventing hypertension, protecting against blockage in the arteries and recurrence of a heart attack,” says Dr Ratna Sharma, associate professor, department of physiology, AIIMS. It can also help control anxiety, which further lowers heart attack risk.
Most cardiologists advise some amount of aerobic activity along with yoga. “Combined with dietary restrictions, aerobic activity such as brisk walking and some medication, as much as 90 per cent of the coronary artery disease can be managed,” says Dr SK Sama, head of gastroenterology, Sir Gangaram Hospital. Brisk walking for at least half an hour every day is recommended, even for those who have had a heart attack.
Alternative therapies do not work on their own for everyone. “There is no scientific evidence to show heart diseases can be cured by alternative medicine, though research does show that a healthy diet, medicines and regular physical activity causes regression of blockages in blood vessels,” says Dr SK Gupta, senior cardiologist, Apollo Hospital.