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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 October, 2004, 23:22 GMT 00:22 UK
Tai Chi 'can treat heart failure'
Tai Chi
Doctors believe Tai Chi can help people with heart failure
Tai Chi can help people with heart failure, doctors believe.

A US study of 30 patients found regular classes gave patients better movement and reduced BNP levels, a measure of heart failure.

A number of the patients attended twice weekly classes for 12 months while a second group had standard treatment.

The British Heart Foundation said the study was "excellent news" and Tai Chi could be adopted into treatment programmes in the UK in the future.

More than 800,000 in the UK have heart failure, which, unlike a heart attack, happens when the heart gradually loses the ability to pump blood around the body efficiently.

Commenting on the findings in the American Journal of Medicine, Cathy Ross, a cardiac nurse at the BHF, said: "Studies have been done on this before and have shown it helps.

"This research does add to what is already available but it was quite a small study.


"More research is now needed on just how beneficial it can be but we could certainly see it being used in standard procedure in the UK at some point.

"People with heart failure require less strenuous exercise and sustained but gentle exercise, which Tai Chi is, is ideal for them."

Gloria Yeh, of the Harvard Medical School, also said she thought the non-strenuous, low impact nature of Tai Chi was the key.

"We found that Tai Chi enhanced the quality of life and functional capacity in patients with chronic heart failure who were already undergoing standard cardiac care."

She said the Tai Chi, which has origins in Chinese martial and healing arts, had the potential to make vast improvements in the quality of life of people with heart failure.


But others remained more sceptical.

Philip Ades, of the University of Vermont, said he was concerned the Tai Chi group had extra support session with the teachers over the three-month study.

He said they also had extra social contact among other members of the Tai Chi group whereas the second group had virtually no support or social contact.

He added: "Thus, one can question whether the improvements in self-reported quality of life were a result of the physical and meditative aspects of the Tai Chi program or the benefits of social contact with participants and health care personnel."

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