Study: Yoga Reduces Risk Factors for Diabetes and Heart Disease

Diabetes rates have been steadily rising over the past decades, and it is estimated that 1 in 3 children born in the year 2000 will develop the debilitating condition. Heart disease has attacked even more widely: according the American Heart Association, an estimated 37% of Americans suffer from one or more types of cardiovascular illness. 

Despite increasing awareness of how to prevent diabetes and heart disease, the prevalence of these serious conditions continues to rise. Fortunately, new approaches to health are proving effective in reducing diabetes and heart disease causes: a recent study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reveals that even a short intervention of yoga for diabetes and heart disease can significantly reduce leading indicators of both conditions—especially in those who need help the most.

Conducted by R. L. Bijlani and associates, the study measured diabetes symptoms and heart disease causes including: fasting glucose, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), VLDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (healthy cholersterol), total cholesterol/HDL ratio, and triglycerides of 77 participants both before and directly after an 8-day yoga intervention program. 

The daily program consisted of yoga postures for diabetes and heart disease, yogic breathing (pranayama), an educational video or lecture, group discussion, meditation, and on one day during the program, a brief, personalized consultation with a medical doctor on how to prevent diabetes and other health concerns. While subjects were encouraged to eat a low-fat vegetarian style diet, no food was provided through the program.

The program lasted 3-4 hours a day during the course of the 8-day intervention, which did not include the two weekend days. 

At the end of the program, the researchers observed significant reductions in diabetes symptoms and heart disease causes: fasting glucose, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), VLDL cholesterol, total cholesterol/HDL ratio, and triglycerides had all decreased, while HDL cholesterol (healthy cholesterol) had increased. 

In addition, when the researchers examined the improvements across the risk spectrum, they found that those who had been at highest risk showed the most marked improvements. This was found not only for those with high-risk cholesterol levels, but for those with hyperglycemia, a leading symptom of diabetes, as well.

In other words, while implementing even a short term yoga for diabetes and heart disease practice can reduce risk factors across the board, those who are in the most danger of developing the conditions can gain even greater benefits.

This is wonderful news for anyone who has experienced or had a loved one diagnosed with the pre-indicators of heart disease and diabetes. If a single, 8-day regimen of yoga postures for diabetes and heart disease can provide significant improvements, adopting a healthier lifestyle that includes yoga could keep both conditions safely at bay.