Tai Chi Resembles Drugs, Aerobics in Blood Pressure Lowering
Written by Editor   
Sunday, October 30, 2016 12:00 AM

Tai chi can lower blood pressure in older people as effectively as drugs or aerobic exercise, a new meta-analysis suggests.

The traditional Chinese discipline offers possibilities for older people who can’t or don’t want to exercise strenuously. “Tai chi is low intensity, it’s social, and this modality would be very attractive to older adults." And tai chi can provide other benefits, such as improved balance.

The SPRINT trial recently showed that people 75 years and older with hypertension benefit when target systolic blood pressure is 120 mm Hg, which is lower than current guidelines.  But antihypertensive drugs can cause adverse reactions and aerobic exercise can be difficult or uncomfortable, especially for people with comorbidities, such as osteoarthritis.

To understand how effective an alternative tai chi could be, the researchers looked at the medical literature and searched for ways to combine the effects of many small studies.  They found 28 studies of tai chi that measured blood pressure, and judged them to be of moderate quality. The studies consisted of 1296 people who did tai chi and 919 people who served in nonexercise control groups. On average, tai chi was performed for 61.1 minutes per session, 2.9 times a week, for 20.6 weeks.

During this time, the average drop in systolic blood pressure was 6 mm Hg and in diastolic blood pressure was 3 mm Hg. Reductions are comparable to first-line antihypertensive medications.  The researchers also found that the reduction in systolic blood pressure was greater in people who performed tai chi more frequently.

When tai chi was practiced more than three times a week, the average reduction in systolic pressure was 9.6 mm Hg, when it was practiced three times a week, the average reduction was 5.3 mm Hg, and when it was practiced fewer than three times a week, the average increase in systolic pressure was 1.1 mm Hg.

For studies in which blood pressure was a primary outcome, the average reduction in systolic blood pressure was 9.1 mm Hg, whereas for those in which blood pressure was a secondary outcome, the average reduction was 1.3 mm Hg. When the researchers combined those two findings, they showed that when blood pressure was a primary outcome, the average reduction in systolic pressure in people who performed tai chi more than three times a week was 13.6 mm Hg.

The researchers point out that all the studies in their analysis defined tai chi as a low-intensity physical activity with elements of attention to breathing and relaxation. This study “goes to show you don’t need to do crazy intense exercise to get cardiovascular benefits,” said one researcher.  During the same poster session, she presented a study that showed that yoga decreases anxiety and that heart rate varies during bouts of yoga. Yoga, too, has shown the capacity to lower blood pressure.


Source: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/864177