MASSDEVICE ON CALL — Tai chi improves chronic heart failure sufferers’ life quality: Study. New research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that the ancient meditative exercise of tai chi may improve the lives of individuals suffering from chronic heart failure.
For the study, researchers gave a quality of life questionnaire to HF patients. Those who practiced tai chi scored significantly higher than those who hadn’t been doing the meditational exercise, and the tai chi group also claimed to have an improvement in mood.
The patients who practiced tai chi had no significant physical differences over patients in performing a 6-minute walk, but those who engaged in the exercise exhibited significant improvements in standardized tests that track the mood of patients with chronic heart failure, according to the study.
The disease, which generally classified as systolic or diastolic heart failure and becomes progressively more common with increasing age, develops slowly as the heart muscle gradually weakens, causing it to pump less blood. The condition’s most common cause is coronary artery disease, which often brings on a loss of synchronization (and therefore pumping efficiency) between the two lower chambers of the heart. It results in fatigue, swelling in the feet and ankles and even confusion, among other uncomfortable and potentially deadly symptoms. The disease affects five million Americans and takes the lives of 20 percent of its victims within one year of diagnosis, according to the American Heart Assn.
"Historically, patients with chronic systolic heart failure were considered too frail to exercise and, through the late 1980s, avoidance of physical activity was a standard recommendation," the authors wrote in the study.
"Tai chi appears to be a safe alternative to low-to-moderate intensity conventional exercise training in patients with HF," co-author and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center physician Dr. Gloria Yeh said in prepared remarks.
"Because chronic heart failure is a progressive and debilitating condition, the independent importance of beneficially affecting patient-perceived quality of life is increasingly appreciated. Improvement of mood in this population is highly relevant.," she said.
The earliest styles of tai chi came in being about a thousand years ago in China, but the presence of retirees striking various poses in public parks at day break is a growing phenomenon. It consists of circular movements, balance and weight shifting and breathing techniques.
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