Adding to the growing evidence of yoga’s health benefits, preliminary findings from a recent study show that consistent yoga practice may help to reduce blood pressure among people with prehypertension.

“Patients with prehypertension (slightly elevated blood pressure) are likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) unless they improve their lifestyle,” said lead study author Ashutosh Angrish in a European Society of Cardiology® (ESC) news release. “Both prehypertension and high blood pressure increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure.” Prehypertension is defined as a systolic BP of 120–139 millimeters of mercury or a diastolic BP of 80–89 mmHg. Since high blood pressure can lead to hardening of the arteries, the sooner one can identify elevated blood pressure and take steps to reduce it to a healthy range, the less risk there is to heart health.

Researchers recruited 30 male and 30 female patients who had prehypertension but were otherwise healthy, and randomly assigned them to either a yoga group or a control group. All participants made conventional lifestyle changes as needed—modifying their diet, engaging in moderate aerobic exercise and refraining from smoking—during the 3-month intervention. Yoga group members engaged in daily 1-hour yoga sessions that consisted of asana practice (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation; control-group participants made no changes except for the conventional lifestyle requirements.

Data analysis showed significant improvements in the yoga group, with both 24-hour diastolic BP and nighttime diastolic BP dropping by approximately 4.5 mmHg, and 24-hour mean arterial pressure decreasing by around 4.9 mmHg. The control group showed no significant changes in blood pressure. Angrish said, “Although the reduction in blood pressure [in yoga participants] was modest, it could be clinically very meaningful because even a 2 mmHg decrease in diastolic BP has the potential to decrease the risk of coronary heart disease by 6% and the risk of stroke and transient ischaemic attack by 15%.”

The ESC news release noted that yoga is economical and easy to practice, and it can improve health, with clear benefits for people affected by prehypertension.

The study was presented at the 68th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India, held in Kochi, India. For more information, go to www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/yoga-reduces-blood-pressure-in-patients-with-prehypertension.