American Heart Association

Exercise, alternative therapies lower BP | Health24

Alternative treatments like transcendental meditation, biofeedback and guided breathing appear to reduce high blood pressure in some people, a new report suggests. But only one method that does not involve medication – aerobic exercise – is both proven to have a major impact and highly recommended.

The report, by the American Heart Association, also says research doesn’t support a reduction in high blood pressure from other relaxation and meditation techniques, yoga or acupuncture. However, the quality of research into these strategies is limited, the report adds, suggesting that there’s still hope they have an effect.

“In general, there’s a surprising level of evidence supporting some of the alternative techniques being effective, and surprisingly little or conflicting evidence in regard to other techniques,” said Dr Robert Brook, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Michigan. “These alternative techniques are a neglected stepchild and often not given nearly as much attention or funding for research, and are often not taken as seriously as other approaches.”

No harm in alternative approaches

Two things are clear, he said: The alternative approaches don’t appear to be harmful, and they shouldn’t be used instead of following a doctor’s advice regarding medication.

The American Heart Association launched its report to give guidance to doctors and patients about treatments for high blood pressure, Brook said. “Traditionally, we’ll talk about weight loss, diet, salt restriction and exercise. They’re difficult to comply with, and people don’t follow them. We decided it was time to review all of the research into alternative ways to lower blood pressure.”

The report ranks aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, as having the greatest effect on high blood pressure and the highest quality research to support it.

Biofeedback, weight lifting, transcendental meditation and synchronised breathing (such as breathing to a series of tones) also scored well in terms of effectiveness.

When they’re effective, the techniques may reduce the systolic number in a high blood pressure reading – the top number – by a modest 5 to 10 millimetres of mercury (mmHg), Brook said. A reading of 140 or higher is a sign of potential trouble.

‘Considered safe’

How do the strategies work to reduce blood pressure? It’s not clear in some cases, he said, although exercise appears to boost the functioning of blood vessels by widening them.

Samuel Sears, director of health psychology programmes at East Carolina University, in Greenville, NC, said the report is important but its focus misses the “mental benefits” of alternative treatments.

“Patients seek and may gain broader benefits from some of these therapies, such as psychological and perceived control of their condition,” he said.

So, should you try these strategies?

Dr Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said they’re generally considered safe. However, “the inappropriate reliance on these approaches could result in delays in seeking medical treatment of hypertension,” she said.

“And many of these interventions are associated with out-of-pocket costs for patients, which is an additional consideration particularly if such interventions are ultimately shown not to be effective.”

More information

For more about high blood pressure, try the US National Library of Medicine.

via Exercise, alternative therapies lower BP | Health24.

 

Tai Chi exercise may reduce falls in adult stroke survivors | American Heart Association

American Stroke Association Meeting Report – Abstract P362 – Embargoed until 7 a.m. HT/Noon ET on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013

February 06, 2013

This news release is featured in a news conference at 7 a.m. HT, Wednesday, Feb. 6.

Study Highlights:

Tai Chi exercise reduced falls among stroke survivors.

The ancient Chinese martial art helped survivors achieve and maintain balance to aid stroke recovery.

HONOLULU, Feb. 6, 2013 — Tai Chi may reduce falls among adult stroke survivors, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2013.

Compared to survivors receiving usual care or participating in a national fitness program for Medicare-eligible adults called SilverSneakers®, those practicing Tai Chi had the fewest falls.

Tai Chi is a martial art dating back to ancient China. It includes physical movements, mental concentration and relaxed breathing.

“Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge,” said Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, Ph.D., R.N., the study’s principal investigator and assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, Ariz. “Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance, which is important to prevent falls. Tai Chi is readily available in most U.S. cities and is relatively inexpensive.”

Stroke survivors experience seven times as many falls each year than healthy adults, Taylor-Piliae said. These falls can cause fractures, decrease mobility and increase fear of falling that can result in social isolation or dependence. Tai Chi has significantly reduced falls in healthy older adults.

Researchers recruited 89 stroke survivors — most of whom had ischemic strokes — for a randomized prospective study outside of a hospital setting. Participants were an average 70 years old, 46 percent were women and most Caucasian, college educated and living in the Tucson area, and suffered a stroke on average three years prior to beginning the study.

Among the participants, 30 practiced Tai Chi, 28 took part in usual care and 31 participated in SilverSneakers®. The Tai Chi and SilverSneakers® groups participated in a one-hour exercise class three times each week for 12 weeks. The usual care group received a weekly phone call and written material about participating in community-based physical activity.

During the 12-week trial, there were a total of 34 reported falls in participants’ homes mainly from slipping or tripping: five falls in the Tai Chi group; 15 falls in the usual care group; and 14 falls in the Silver Sneakers group. Only four people sought medical treatment.

Yang-style Tai Chi, as practiced in the study, is the most popular of five styles used in the United States because of its emphasis on health benefits, both physical and psychosocial benefits, researchers said.

“The main physical benefits of Tai Chi are better balance, improved strength, flexibility and aerobic endurance,” Taylor-Piliae said. “Psycho-social benefits include less depression, anxiety and stress, and better quality of life.”

Co-authors are: Tiffany Hoke, R.N.; Bijan, Najafi, Ph.D.; and Bruce Coull, M.D. Author disclosures are on the abstract.

An American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars Grant funded the study.

Follow news from the ASA International Stroke Conference 2013 via Twitter @HeartNews; #ISC13.

Learn more about physical activity for stroke survivors.

Statements and conclusions of study authors that are presented at American Stroke Association scientific meetings are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect association policy or position. The association makes no representation or warranty as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at http://www.heart.org/corporatefunding.

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Note: Actual presentation is 4:45 p.m. HT/9:45 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013.

All downloadable video/audio interviews, B-roll, animation and images related to this news release are on the right column of this link. Video clips with researchers/authors of studies will be added to the release links after embargo.

ASA News Media in Dallas: (214) 706-1173 [Call: (214) 706-1173]

ASA News Media Office, Feb. 6-8

at the Hawaii Convention Center: (808) 792-6506 [Call: (808) 792-6506]

For Public Inquiries: (800) AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and strokeassociation.org

via Tai Chi exercise may reduce falls in adult stroke survivors | American Heart Association.