Yoga could ‘save the lives of people who have had a heart attack’

Yoga could be a life saver for people recovering from a major heart attack ‘because it boosts circulation and strengthens the organ’


  • Researchers tracked almost 2,500 recovering from heart attack surgery 
  • Three months of yoga lowered the risk of them suffering another attack 
  • Tests showed their hearts were more efficiently pumping blood around

Yoga could be a life saver for people recovering from a major heart attack, research suggests.

A study of almost 2,500 people recovering from heart surgery found breathing exercises and stretching boosted circulation and strengthened the heart.

The research, presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Paris by a team from India, found that a three-month programme of yoga while recovering from surgery following a heart attack resulted in lower risk.

Those who undertook a daily hour of breathing exercises and gentle movement were about 16 per cent less likely to die over the next five years.

Tests showed that participants’ hearts were more efficiently pumping blood around the body.

More than 100,000 Britons a year are admitted to hospital following a heart attack.

A study of almost 2,500 people recovering from heart surgery found breathing exercises and stretching boosted circulation and strengthened the heart

Lead researcher Professor Naresh Sen, from Hridaya Ganesha Sunil Memorial Super Speciality Hospital in Jaipur, said: ‘Patients in the yoga arm undertook three months of a new daily one-hour programme specifically designed for cardiac patients, incorporating yoga and meditation in the morning and a pattern of breathing exercises, comprising slow and fast-breathing elements, in the evening.

‘Yoga and breathing exercises may help to reduce metabolic stress, reduce oxygen demand and prevent ventricular remodelling [damage to heart].’ 

The trial involved patients who had suffered the most serious type of heart attack, where one of the major arteries is blocked.

All had undergone surgery to widen the vessels, using a stent to allow blood to flow more freely.

Half the patients were then put on a three month programme of yoga, lasting an hour a day.

Morning sessions involved exercise and meditation, while in the evening they practised ‘pranayam’ – the Hatha yoga practice of breath control.


Figures suggest there are 200,000 hospital visits because of heart attacks in the UK each year, while there are around 800,000 annually in the US.

A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked. 

Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, and feeling weak and anxious.

Heart attacks are commonly caused by coronary heart disease, which can be brought on by smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Treatment is usually medication to dissolve blots clots or surgery to remove the blockage.

Reduce your risk by not smoking, exercising regularly and drinking in moderation.

Heart attacks are different to a cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, usually due to a problem with electrical signals in the organ. 

Source: NHS Choices

Over the next five years mortality rates in those who were not given the classes was 25 per cent.

But in the yoga group, it was 21 per cent – a relative drop of 16 per cent.

Researchers also found their heart performance was also improved, with an 11 per cent boost to left ventricular ejection fraction – a measure of the heart’s ability to pump blood.

In comparison, those who did not do yoga only saw a four per cent increase.

The benefits remained even after adjustment for differences between the patient groups, Professor Sen said.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation said: ‘Practising yoga can help to control risk factors, such as high blood pressure, which increase our risk of heart and circulatory diseases.

‘There’s also a lot of evidence that yoga can help to relieve stress and improve mental health, giving us less of a reason to make unhealthy lifestyle choices, such us smoking.

‘It’s not much of a stretch to see why this might improve survival if you’ve suffered a heart attack. 

‘Whatever way you choose to do it, taking regular time to exercise and reduce stress is good for your heart.’ 

Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years, having developed in India as a system of gentle exercise, breathing techniques and light meditation.

The activity is famously practiced by celebrities including Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Benedict Cumberbatch.

For many people, it is closely tied to religion and philosophy, and in Britain alone, more than 3,600 people belong to the British Wheel of Yoga, the national governing body for yoga which defines the pursuit as a Sanskrit word meaning ‘union between mind, body and spirit’ and a ‘philosophy’.

But for thousands of others it is merely a popular way to keep fit and remain calm amid the pressures of modern life.

These two different approaches came to a head in 2012, when a yoga group was banned from a church hall in Southampton, because a priest said the practice was a Hindu religious activity and therefore not in keeping with the Catholic faith.

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