A new Australian study finds that mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) such as yoga and tai chi may have the potential to mitigate stroke risk as well as benefit stroke survivors.
The research team from Monash University, the University of South Australia (UniSA) and the University of Melbourne found that practicing yoga and tai chi can reduce blood pressure, fatty acids and blood sugar levels, all risk factors for stroke.
Their findings are published in the journal Future Neurology.
Dr. Maarten Immink, UniSA senior lecturer in Human Movement, said physical activity plays an important role in preventing recurrent stroke but many stroke survivors may have limited mobility.
“This is where yoga and tai chi are so helpful. They are gentle, movement-based MBIs which help people focus — a state of mind which stroke survivors often lose — and be active at the same time,” Immink says.
For the study, the researchers looked at 26 studies published between 1985 and 2017 which examined how yoga and tai chi moderated key stroke risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, smoking and alcohol consumption, obesity, anxiety and depression.
Professor Susan Hillier, UniSA Dean of Health Research, said there is growing evidence that MBIs can be an effective and noninvasive way of reducing hypertension, the biggest stroke risk factor.
“Some evidence suggests that MBIs such as yoga and tai chi regulate blood pressure by teaching people to breathe deeply, balancing and stabilizing their autonomic nervous system and lowering their heart rate,” Hillier says.
The stroke specialist said nearly one-third of adults around the world suffer from high blood pressure, with 23 million additional strokes projected in the next 12 years.
“Survivors of stroke are at an increased risk of another one — 43 percent likely within 10 years, 32 percent within five years and 16 percent within one year — so it is important we find interventions to help reduce the major risk factors,” she says.
Apart from lowering blood pressure, the study finds that MBIs can help improve diabetics’ health by increasing blood and oxygen supply to the tissues, helping to produce insulin, and boosting anti-oxidants.
Stroke patients may experience mental, emotional and behavioral changes. Injury from a stroke may make a person forgetful, careless, irritable or confused. Stroke survivors may also experience feelings of anxiety, anger or depression.
Source: University of South Australia
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