Have you ever wondered if there’s a connection between yoga and heart disease risk? If you worry about your risk for heart trouble, you’re not alone. And yes, a yoga practice can help reduce your risk for heartache—literally and figuratively.
Yoga helps the heart by improving physical health. It also helps the emotional heart. If you already love yoga, you’re in luck. Targeting your yoga practice can help your heart.
Yoga and Heart Disease: What You Should Know
A 2014 study in the European Journal of Cardiology found an inverse connection between yoga and heart disease risk. Specifically, the study suggested yoga can help modify risk factors associated with heart trouble.
Heart disease—or cardiovascular disease—refers to damage to the heart muscle or narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels. A person with cardiovascular disease has a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
- High triglyceride (a type of fat) levels
- Excess body weight
- High blood pressure
- A sedentary lifestyle
- A diet high in fatty, fried or salty foods
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Chronic stress
How Yoga Can Help People at Risk for Heart Disease
- Yoga reduces stress. One of the most common reasons people practice yoga is to lower stress. Yoga reduces stress by relaxing the body, improving breathing and helping blood flow more efficiently. So yoga reduces heart disease risk by lowering stress.
- People who practice yoga have lower blood pressure. Stress raises blood pressure. Since yoga lowers stress, there is a correlation between practicing yoga and heart disease risk due to high blood pressure. A regular yoga practice is ideal for people with high blood pressure.
- Yoga is a form of physical activity. Being active reduces the risk for heart disease in a number of ways. It helps lower bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Also, if you are overweight, physical activity is essential to help you lose weight. If you practice more vigorous types of yoga, like power or vinyasa yoga along with gentle and restorative classes for stress relief, you’re at an advantage. You’re burning calories and lowering stress.
- Yoga may give you an overall healthier mindset. People who practice yoga often take better care of their health in general. That means you’re more likely to eat a heart-healthy diet. It also means you’re less likely to smoke. Again, the connection between yoga and heart disease—a lower risk for it, that is.
- Yoga can help lower blood sugar. If you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk for heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one complication of uncontrolled diabetes. An active yoga practice will help reduce blood sugar, which in turn can help lower your risk for heart disease.
Keep Your Heart Healthy With Yoga
Yoga and heart disease don’t mix for more reasons than one, and that’s good news for yogis! Simply put, the more yoga you practice, the better off your heart may be. Studies suggest yoga is as effective as any form of exercise in protecting the heart and it has the added benefit of being good for your mind and spirit. So, yoga gives you more tools for dealing with risk factors for heart disease.
It improves your life in other ways as well!