Coronary heart disease (or coronary artery disease) is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart (coronary arteries). Coronary disease usually results from the build-up of fatty material and plaque in the blood vessels. As the coronary arteries narrow, the flow of blood to the heart can slow or stop, causing chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, heart attack or other symptoms.
The rates of coronary heart disease increase rapidly with age for both men and women, with almost two thirds of people with coronary heart disease aged 65 and over in 2004-2005. Researchers from Boston have recently reviewed studies of Tai Chi exercise in patients with cardiovascular disease or its risk factors. There were 29 studies included in the review, 3 in coronary heart disease, 5 in heart failure, 10 in mixed populations that included cardiovascular disease and 11 in people with risk factors for cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, impaired blood sugar metabolism). Studies ranged from 8 weeks to 3 years, and each included fewer than 100 people.
The results showed that most studies reported improvements with Tai Chi, including blood pressure reductions and increases in exercise capacity and that no adverse effects were reported. The authors concluded, preliminary evidence suggests that Tai Chi exercise may be a beneficial adjunctive therapy for some patients with cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors. In another review of various studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in March 2004, the authors reported that two studies found that elderly patients who practiced Tai Chi four times a week for one year exhibited enhanced cardiorespiratory function, strength and flexibility compared with a control group. Another study reported that long-term Tai Chi practitioners had higher oxygen uptake rates and lower body fat percentages than their less active counterparts.