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    Yoga Gets Hearts Healthy

    Yoga and Meditation 3 Times a Week Improves Heart Disease Risk

    Yoga Improves Blood Pressure

    At the beginning of the study the average blood pressure was 130/79 mmHg. The American Heart Association says that a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mmHg. After six weeks the average blood pressure reading was 125/74 mmHg, which was a significant decrease with yoga and meditation classes. The volunteers also had a modest reduction in BMI -- from 29 to 28, and they "had an average reduction in pulse rate of nine beats per minute," he says.

    While people with heart disease had the biggest improvement in blood vessel function, that improvement "was independent of any improvements in blood pressure," he says. And after six weeks it was the healthy patients who posted the biggest improvements in blood pressure, pulse rate, and BMI.

    "Even with a small number of patients for a short period of time there was a benefit of yoga and meditation seen in people with heart disease," he says. He says, however, that the researchers don't know the mechanism involved in that benefit, which means that more study is needed.

    Gerald F. Fletcher, MD, a cardiovascular disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic Florida in Jacksonville, tells WebMD that "it is probably exercise. There are several studies that suggest that exercise -- any kind of exercise -- improves oxygen consumption, which improves endothelial function." Fletcher, who was not involved in the study, is a spokesman for the AHA.

    "I'm not sure that meditation has a specific benefit, but if combining meditation with exercise will get people to exercise, then I'm all for it. But the most important message is that exercise works," Fletcher says.

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