Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. About 600,000 people die from heart disease every year and about 720,000 Americans have a heart attack every year! Heart diseases costs the country billions of dollars a year. Physical activity is one of the recommended preventative measures for heart disease. The problem is, most people do not want to participate in and do not tend to stick to physical activity programs. Additionally, there are people who cannot engage in many forms of physical activities for medical reasons. That’s where Tai Chi comes in. You should consider Tai Chi for a healthy heart.
Tai Chi is especially popular with older adults, many who do not like the idea of going to a gym or participating in joint-jarring, strenuous, intense, high-impact physical exercise. Tai Chi involves slow, gentle movements which may be performed by people of varying physical abilities and even in the comfort of their own homes. However, just because Tai Chi is low-impact, slow and gentle does not mean it’s ineffective. Studies have shown that Tai Chi is effective in reducing weight and improving cardiovascular health. That’s because Tai Chi addresses some of the risk factors for heart disease.
Risk factors for heart disease include being overweight, eating unhealthy food (high cholesterol, triglycerides etc.), having type 2 diabetes, drinking excessively and being physically inactive. Having high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking also put you at a higher risk for heart disease. Studies have shown that Tai Chi reduces blood glucose and insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes, helps people lose weight and also lowers blood pressure.One study showed that Tai Chi participants had improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin and C-reactive protein in people at risk for heart disease. A pilot study at Harvard showed that Tai Chi “…also reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein, an indicator of heart failure.
Another study also showed that Tai Chi improved arterial compliance. Arterial compliance involves the expansion and contraction of the arteries. Impaired arterial compliance puts you at risk for heart disease. Consequently, improving arterial compliance reduces your risk of developing heart disease. This improvement is thought to be a result of “aerobic training, stretching, mental concentration and calm meditation during tai chi movement.”
Tai Chi also helps people remain active by providing an activity they can safely participate in, and by improving strength, balance and preventing falls. The fear of falling prevents a lot of older adults from engaging in any type of physical activity. If you are not physically active or are looking for something to add to or replace your current regimen, consider Tai Chi. As always, remember to visit your physician regularly, maintain a healthy diet and pursue all means possible to maintain a healthy heart.