By Dr. Jen Morganti, NEEDS Education Director
If you have ever tried yoga, you already know how wonderfully de-stressing and energizing it can be. But what you may not have realized is that it can also help lower cholesterol! A recent small study was conducted in India to determine if a consistent yoga program could help address high cholesterol. Twenty-two women who took thyroid medication for hypothyroidism participated in this study. All had high cholesterol—a common symptom related to low thyroid—high TSH, low thyroid, and all took prescription thyroid medication.
In this study, the women participated in intense yoga practice for one hour daily for six months. The yoga sessions included sun salutations, meditation, breathing practices, and a variety of yoga postures. After practicing for six months, it was shown that their total cholesterol and triglycerides decreased significantly, and their HDL (beneficial cholesterol) increased significantly. There were only slight improvements in thyroid issues; TSH levels decreased slightly, but not significantly, and seven of the twenty-two medication doses.
High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis or "clogged arteries," putting a person at risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attack. Statin drugs are commonly prescribed to reduce cholesterol levels, but they come with risk for other side effects, such as muscle pain, liver damage, and neurological effects. So it makes sense to try alternative, natural treatments to lower cholesterol as an initial trial. It would be wise to take red yeast rice, fish oil, and milk thistle to lower cholesterol levels, along with healthy eating and a consistent yoga practice.
This small but interesting study indicates that long term yoga practice may be part of an effective plan for reducing stress, balancing thyroid hormones, and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.