Thursday, January 17, 2013

Taijiquan and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases and strokes. Moreover,
cardiovascular diseases and strokes are the main causes of death in China today. According to a national
Chinese health investigation conducted from 1979 to 1980, over 4 million people living in 29 provinces
and cities were surveyed as to the condition of their blood pressure. An average of 7.73 percent of the
people in the survey had high blood pressure at/or near the critical point of high blood pressure. Based
on the above percentage, there were at least 80 million people with high blood pressure in China at the
time of the investigation.

The past few years have seen a rapid growth in the economy and because of this the influence of the
environment, the fast pace of work, and changing eating habits have led to a gradual increase in the
number of people who have high blood pressure. The National Heart and Brain Disease Research Association conducted a study of 21,189 randomly selected people 15 years and older in several districts in
Shanghai between September and November 1991. The researchers calculated that 12.69 percent of
these people had high blood pressure. Based on the calculations of this study, there were over 140
million people in China with high blood pressure at that period.

A few years ago, Dr. Mei Ying Sheng with the aid of three prominent medical doctors organized a
blood pressure investigation at five various Yang style Taijiquan posts in the city of Le Shan, Si Chuan
Province. A group of 220 people ages 40 and older (average age was 58.1 years old) were selected to
participate in Taijiquan every morning for one year. Before and after each practice session, the change in
blood pressure of the participants was measured and recorded. The participates were divided into separate
groups based upon their blood pressure history before the commencement of the investigation. The
following lists blood pressure data based on the international standard:

High Blood Pressure Group: greater than 160 millimeter Mercury (mm Hg) (systolic pressure) over 95
mmHg (diastolic pressure).

Borderline High Blood Pressure Group: those who were bordering between high and normal blood

Normal Blood Pressure Group: less than 140 mm Hg (systolic pressure) over 90 mm Hg (diastolic pressure).
Participants whose blood pressure had changed at the on set of the investigation were then placed in
the appropriate group.

Among 60 people who had a history of high blood pressure prior to participating in the Taijiquan/
blood pressure study, the blood pressure of the majority was above 180/100 mm Hg. Even though they
were being treated with medication to control their high blood pressure, there was a percentage within
the group who had to enter the hospital to control their blood pressure. After a few months of practicing
Taijiquan, however, this group did not need to enter a hospital due to the condition of their blood pressure.
After a portion of the group halted their medication in-take, their blood pressure lowered to normal
levels within a few years. A total of 107 people within the “high blood pressure group” and the “borderline
high blood pressure group” showed no increase in blood pressure after participating in a daily practice
regime of Taijiquan.

After practicing Taijiquan, the group who had high blood pressure showed a very apparent decrease in
blood pressure to the normal pressure range both in systolic and diastolic pressures. There were six
people whose blood pressure was slightly lower than normal among those with a normal blood pressure
of approximately 90/60 mm Hg. After practicing Taijiquan for a period of time, there were varying
degrees of increased blood pressure to the normal range among the six people. This suggests that the
practice of Taijiquan provides a multi-regulatory action toward controlling blood pressure.
Among the high blood pressure group, there were 13 people whose blood pressure showed an obvious
decrease after participating in a session of Taijiquan. Immediately following the session, the 13
people would then participate in a 20 minute aerobic class. The participants systolic pressure increased
an average of 16.54 and the diastolic pressure increased an average of 4.94 mm Hg. From this, it can be
concluded that the naturally harmonious and tranquil movements of Taijiquan and the fast paced exercise
of aerobics have different influences in regard to blood pressure. Taijiquan will actually lower blood
pressure during and immediately following practice, while aerobics, on the other hand, will increase blood
pressure during and immediately following practice.

The majority of the group with high blood pressure also exhibited hardening of the arteries. Taijiquan
is an active exercise which allows the muscles to evenly contract and relax. The muscle fibers of the
entire body will be repeatedly twisted and turned under the body’s great range of motion. This natural
“massaging” action can allow the arteries and veins to conduct more powerful contractions and expansions. Consequently, this will help prevent the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries and will also aid in
the removal of cholesterol already built up in the arteries. The arteries will also regain their tenacity and
strength due to this “massaging” action. Therefore, Taijiquan, when practiced over a period of time, is
one of the most ideal exercises to prevent and cure high blood pressure which arises due to hardening of
the arteries in middle aged and elderly people.

During the performance of Taijiquan, the central nervous system will calmly control all motion under
a state of total relaxation and tranquility. Under this restrained condition, the activities of the sympathetic
nervous system will slow down, thereby allowing the blood vessels to restrict the flow of adrenaline
in the blood stream. In return, various hormones and amine salt groups in the blood system will
increase leading to an increase in the relaxation of the blood vessels. This will help to completely open,
stretch, and strengthen the capillary system within the body which will in turn increase the circulation of
blood throughout the body. The decrease in resistance in the blood vessels will ultimately lead to a
lowering in blood pressure. Consequently, this is one of the main reasons why blood pressure can be
regulated with continuous practice of Taijiquan.