Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, ranking above cancer and stroke. Additionally, hypertension, commonly referred to as “high blood pressure,” is the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S. (Kung et al. 2008). It is therefore important for all health and fitness professionals to be informed about the methods available to help support cardiovascular health.
Recently, as co-chair of a medical conference on the metabolic syndrome and dyslipidemia, I seized the chance to slip a short discussion of yoga-based lifestyle research into a long day of clinical trial expositions that mostly focused on lipid-lowering drug studies. I felt somewhat meek describing a number of relatively small studies, all done on small budgets, while most clinical trials being discussed were 50- to 200-million-dollar studies sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry or the National Institutes of Health [NIH].
Economic woes have been unrelenting over the past months. For 8 in 10 Americans, money is a top source of stress, according to the American Psychological Association’s [APA] 2008 Stress in America Survey, and negative financial news continues to fuel people’s fears.
Music that makes you happy also benefits your cardiovascular system. That encouraging finding emerged from a small study presented in November 2008 at the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association in New Orleans. Ten study participants, who listened to self-selected tunes that “made them feel good and brought them a sense of joy,” experienced a healthy increase in blood flow that improved circulation, according to researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
To help United States citizens reduce stress during difficult economic times, Les Mills offered interested participants a free class at varying health and fitness facilities during December 2008. Part of the nationwide “Stress Less America: Elect to Change, Vote for Yourself” campaign, the health-conscious program was designed to highlight the stress-busting effects of exercise. “One exercise session alone can generate 90–120 minutes of relaxation response,” stated Les Mills creative director Jackie Mills, MD.
Transcendental meditation may improve mental health by reducing anxiety and somatisation (development of physical symptoms stemming from mental or emotional stress). That was the finding of a study published in Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health (2008; 4 ; doi:10.1186/1745–0179–4–25).
Actively cultivating compassion engenders positive feelings. The ancient Buddhist practice of “loving-kindness meditation,” also known as metta, consists of a technique where a person directs compassion and wishes for well-being to real or imagined people and as a result experiences positive feelings and kindness toward him- or herself and others.
In the emotional rollercoaster of life, sometimes the “down” periods have long-lasting effects on more than just our mood. In fact, numerous studies link factors that impact our emotional well-being, such as stress, depression and anxiety, to an increase in skin, hair or nail problems.
Who has time to worry about stress? After all, if we had time to manage our stress, we would not be stressed in the first place! This retort, unfortunately, is often our first response to the subject of stress. Yet no matter how busy we become in our daily routines, we cannot afford to ignore our reactions to stressful circumstances.
Stress has been linked to cardiovas...
Stress triggers many physiological changes in the body through the “fight or flight” response. When stress levels are high, levels of the hormone cortisol released into the bloodstream are also high. Studies confirm that chronic stress is associated with increased fat in the abdominal area, higher concentrations of blood sugar and insulin, higher blood pressure and higher levels of cho...