The ancient Chinese exercise of tai chi may improve quality of life for people suffering from heart failure, Harvard researchers report.
About Tai Chi And Heart Failure
Tai chi combines flowing circular movements, balance and weight-shifting, breathing techniques and focused internal awareness. It has already been shown to be helpful with a number of medical conditions, including hypertension (high blood pressure), balance and musculoskeletal diseases, and fibromyalgia, the researchers noted.
People with chronic heart failure suffer from the inability of the heart to pump blood efficiently to meet the body's needs. The condition causes shortness of breath, coughing, ankle swelling and difficulty exercising.
Researchers randomly assigned 100 heart failure patients to a 12-week tai chi program or to educational sessions about heart failure.
Tai chi incorporates low/moderate intensity aerobics with strength training, breathing techniques, relaxation and stress management, explained lead researcher Gloria Yeh, MD, MPH, from the division of general medicine and primary care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The researchers found that although both groups had similar oxygen use during six-minute walks, those who practiced tai chi showed greater improvements in quality of life, which was measured using the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire.
In addition, those taking part in tai chi also showed improvement in mood and improvement in the number of calories burned each week, compared with those in the education program, the researchers added.
"Tai chi training improved important parameters of quality of life, mood and confidence to perform exercise in patients with heart failure." said Dr. Yeh.
The report was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
"Maintaining an exercise regimen is important in heart failure, and tai chi may be a suitable alternative or adjunct exercise for these patients," Dr. Yeh said.
Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, associate chief of cardiology at David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, noted that "heart failure results in substantial impairment in functional capacity, quality of life and mood."
"While traditional aerobic exercise may provide some benefits to patients with heart failure, many heart failure patients have difficulty in engaging and sustaining regular aerobic exercise," he added.
There has been increasing interest in using mind-body exercises such as tai chi for patients with heart failure, Dr. Fonarow said. "It may be more easily implemented, pleasant and it has the additional benefit of meditation," he added.
"As a complement to standard medical care, this study has demonstrated that tai chi enhanced quality of life, mood and exercise self-efficacy" Dr. Fonarow said. "Tai chi appears to be a safe alternative to low-to moderate-intensity conventional exercise training in patients with heart failure. Further studies are needed to compare tai chi to aerobic exercise training, and to determine if participation in tai chi will have a favorable impact on risk of hospitalization or survival in patients with heart failure."
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