Massage Benefits For Heart Health
Did you know cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association? Fortunately, massage therapy can serve as a powerful complementary treatment for heart health. Discover how massage benefits the heart, and then spread the word!
Massage Helps Reduce Blood Pressure, Heart Rate & Stress
Regular massage can help heal the heart and prevent heart disease.
In 2008, researchers studied 263 volunteers who underwent massage for 45 to 60 minutes. Average blood pressure fell by 10 mg Hg, and heart rate by 10 beats per minute—after just one treatment. "That's about as much as you might get from prescribing a new blood pressure medication for life!" says cardiologist Dr. Joel Kahn.
In 2013, 50 people with mildly elevated blood pressure received a 15-minute massage three times a week for 10 sessions, while a similar group just relaxed for the same amount of time. By the end of the sessions, only blood pressure of the massage group participants had fallen, and remained lower for several days.
Massage has been shown to acutely reduce blood pressure and heart rate in hypertensive women. Another 2013 study examined eight women with high blood pressure who had an hour-long massage each week for four weeks. At the end of that period, their blood pressure fell by 12 mm Hg systolic (top number). Measurements in their blood reflecting inflammation also fell significantly. According to Dr. Kahn, the drop in markers of inflammation suggests massage therapy may have a body-wide healing effect.
Since regular massage also helps eliminate stress, it can reduce its associated risks. One of these risks, known as cardiac arrhythmias, causes the heart to pump less effectively, so less blood reaches the brain and other vital organs. Massage also releases contracted muscles and pushes venous blood toward the heart, easing strain on our most vital organ.
Additionally, researchers found that massage therapy may reduce pain, anxiety, and muscular tension in cardiac surgery patients. The volunteers who received massage during the 2013 study experienced a 52 percent reduction in pain in comparison to the participants who received an equivalent amount of rest time, who saw no major improvements. This reduction in pain increased over the six-day trial.
Why Does Massage Result in Cardiovascular Improvements?
The research suggests that these massage benefits on heart health relates to a decrease in stress. Reductions in salivary and urinary levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been observed in several experiments in humans; however, urinary levels of the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine were not seen to fall during several studies.
There is still much research to be done and nothing is a given when it comes to massage for the heart. We have yet to see studies showing a reduction in heart attack, strokes, and heart-related deaths, which Dr. Kahn says are unlikely due to the costs of such research projects. So for now, stick to your blood pressure medicines and supplements, as well as a healthy green diet low in cholesterol.
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