Slow Breathing and Cardiovascular Disease

By Chaddha, Ashish | International Journal of Yoga, July-December 2015 | Go to article overview

Slow Breathing and Cardiovascular Disease


Chaddha, Ashish, International Journal of Yoga


Byline: Ashish. Chaddha

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. Much emphasis has been placed on the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. While depression and anxiety increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease also increases the risk of developing anxiety and depression. Thus, promoting optimal mental health may be important for both primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Like lowering blood pressure, lipids, and body weight, lowering anger and hostility and improving depression and anxiety may also be an important intervention in preventive cardiology. As we strive to further improve cardiovascular outcomes, the next bridge to cross may be one of offering patients nonpharmacologic means for combating daily mental stress and promoting mental health, such as yoga and pranayama. Indeed, the best preventive cardiovascular medicine may be a blend of both Western and Eastern medicine.

Introduction

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. In the United States, roughly 600,000 people die of heart disease every year. This equates to 1 in every 4 deaths resulting from cardiovascular disease. The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, which itself costs the United States around $110 billion each year. The prevalence of myocardial infarction is over 700,000 annually. [sup][1]

Much emphasis has been placed on the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Aggressive risk factor management is recommended, which has improved patient survival, reduced recurrent events and the need for interventional procedures, and improved the quality of life of these patients. Many trials have studied optimal management of lipids, diabetes, blood pressure, weight, and pharmacotherapy such as the importance of ACE inhibitors or ARBs, beta-blockers, and antiplatelet agents. However, there remains one lifestyle component, which has not received the attention it deserves for preventing cardiovascular disease: Mental health. As we strive to further improve cardiovascular outcomes, the next bridge to cross may be one of offering patients nonpharmacologic means for combating daily mental stress and promoting mental health. Indeed, the best preventive cardiovascular medicine may be a blend of both Western and Eastern medicine.

Mental health and cardiovascular disease: A link?

Depression and anxiety lead to a worse prognosis and outcome in patients with cardiovascular disease. While depression and anxiety increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease also increases the risk of developing anxiety and depression. Thus, promoting optimal mental health may be important for both primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. [sup][2]

Anger and hostility in response to daily life events and stress may also be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Higher hostility levels may be associated with increased carotid artery medial thickness and thus a more rapid rate of progression of atherosclerosis. Higher hostility levels have also been associated with restenosis after percutaneous coronary intervention. [sup][3]

Nonpharmacologic Interventions

Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline with the goal of bringing balance and health to the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of an individual. It consists of postures (asanas), concentration (meditation), slow breathing (pranayama), and recital of phrases (called mantras). While there are 84,000 postures, only 32 are recommended as being useful in regular practice.

Performing yoga a few times per week, with each session lasting roughly 20 min, is effective in treating hypertension, reducing angina episodes per week, improving exercise capacity, and decreasing body weight and waist circumference. …

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