People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at increased risk for heart disease, but tai chi may help lower it, a new study shows.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation. People with it are at increased risk for cardiovascular artery disease, including coronary heart disease and heart attack. This is probably due to the inflammation from the disease, along with their increased likelihood of having other heart disease risk factors including obesity, diabetes and inactivity.
Tai chi combines meditation with slow, gentle movements, deep breathing, and relaxation. The intensity of tai chi is equivalent to walking 3.7 miles an hour and moderately increases heart rate.
This study included 56 older female RA patients with stable RA, over the age of 50. Twenty nine were assigned to a tai chi exercise group and the remaining 27 to a control group.
The tai chi group participated in a 60-minute group exercise session once a week for three months. The control group did no exercise, but received information about lifestyle modification, including smoking cessation and weight loss, and advice about appropriate regular exercise.
Cardiac tests were performed before and after the experiment to measure early indicators of atherosclerosis, the process that causes coronary heart disease. The researchers found that in the tai chi group, the indicators of atherosclerosis were improved, but this was the opposite in the control group. Those in the tai chi group also improved their cholesterol levels as well.
Recent studies have uncovered evidence of multiple benefits of tai chi for RA patients, including reduced symptoms, fatigue and increased quality of life, but this is the first to look at cardiovascular risk, the researchers say of their study, which appears in Arthritis Research & Therapy.
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