Desirable or normal blood pressure is generally considered to be below 120/80 (one-twenty over eighty). Where 120 represents the systolic measurement and 80 represents the diastolic measurement.
However, high blood pressure, also known as the "silent killer", affects approximately one billion people worldwide, with nearly 1 in three adults in the U.S suffering from the condition. Many patients with mild hypertension would prefer alternative methods of lowering their blood pressure than chronic lifelong treatment with medication. Yoga is becoming increasingly popular and is viewed as a possible alternative.
In this study, Dr. Debbie Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania, led a team of researchers to evaluate exactly the effect yoga had on blood pressure among a total of 58 women and men, aged 38 to 62.
The researchers said:
"Based on our pilot data we are conducting a study to assess the effects of yoga alone, or with dietary intervention, on BP reduction in subjects with pre-HTN and stage 1 HTN in unmedicated, healthy, yoga naive subjects."
The 58 participants were divided into three different groups:
- a supervised 'Diet'/weight reduction and walking program
- a 'Yoga' practice in a studio 2 to 3 per week for 24 weeks
- a 'Combo' program consisting of both Yoga and Dietary intervention
Patients who followed a specialized diet but didn't participate in the yoga program also experienced a drop in blood pressure, although it was smaller compared to those in the yoga group.
The yoga group experienced an average of three points for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, from 133/80 to 130/77, whereas the controlled diet group - who did not practice yoga - saw only a decrease of one point, from 134/83 to 132/82.
Surprisingly, those who followed both a special diet as well as the yoga program didn't experience a greater drop in blood pressure compared to those who were part of the yoga group alone.
They believe that the reason why yoga is able to lower blood pressure so successfully is because of the relaxation and mindfulness associated with it. In fact, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) found that yoga may be superior to other forms of exercise in its positive effect on mood and anxiety.
The authors said that yoga could have a very beneficial effect on people suffering from high blood pressure, especially when used in addition with other lifestyle modifications.
According to a previous study by researchers at the University of Ulster, low levels of weekly exercise can drive down blood pressure and boost overall fitness.
Is is important to note that blood pressure treatments should be patient-specific - some treatment options may work for some but not for others. For example, obese people generally respond best to diuretic medications which shouldn't be given to those who aren't obese.
Therefore, blood pressure treatments aimed at preventing complications, such as heart attacks and strokes,work best if the doctor takes into account your body mass index (BMI) as well as other lifestyle factors.
A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health (June 2013 issue) found that yoga improves brain function more than aerobic exercises do.