Ashok Pandey, an 11th grade student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute is the youngest investigator to present at this year’s Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, the largest gathering of cardiovascular and allied healthcare professionals in the country. On the first day of presentations, Pandey stepped up to the podium to introduce his research into the effects of yoga on global cardiovascular risk to a room full of doctors more than three-times his age.
While the practice of yoga is enormously popular for its promise of improved health benefits, Pandey saw an opportunity to back up this claim with hard evidence, filling a gap which had not yet been measured.
“There is very little research looking into the effects of yoga overall on cardiovascular health,” said Pandey ahead of his CCC poster presentation at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Similarly, he said, there’s very little literature which looks at incorporating yoga into a standard exercise program and finding a way to actually have it incorporated into a cardiovascular prevention strategy. Pandey made these the main focal points of his study, titled The Global Cardiovascular Risk And Vascular Inflammation Effects Of Incorporating Yoga Into Cardiac Rehabilitation (pdf).
After three months the participants saw significant improvements, especially in the yoga intervention group, which saw a 13.2% relative risk reduction, compared to just a 6.5% reduction in the controlled group.
- Ashok Pandey, grade 11 student
To implement his study, Pandey enlisted the help of London, Ontario-based cardiologist, Dr. Nisar Huq, and cardiologist, Dr. Paul Poirier of Université Laval, QC. Drs. Huq and Poirier assisted with the recruitment of 60 heart patients with high blood pressure (and who were not on any medication to control it), and served as Pandey’s mentors throughout the study’s three-month period. Poirier is credited as the study’s senior author.
“I couldn’t do it all on my own and there are many people who helped me,” said Pandey.”Of course, I have to thank the 60 participants included in this study.”
Participants were randomly assigned into one of two groups. The first group followed a regular cardiovascular prevention exercise program. The second group, the “yoga group,” followed the same program as the first group, only swapping out stretching exercises and other low intensity exercises with yoga. Pandey’s objective was to determine whether adding yoga to a regular exercise program might reduce the risk for heart disease in the yoga group. Both groups were followed for a period of three months, participating in stretching or yoga plus 30-minutes of aerobic exercises three times a week.
At the beginning of the three-month intervention, participants’ blood pressure and cholesterol levels were tested, and a blood test administered to evaluate their future risk of coronary artery disease. Baseline testing revealed no difference between the two groups, but after three months, the yoga group showed a bigger decrease in risk.
Pandey said “After three months the participants saw significant improvements, especially in the yoga intervention group, which saw a 13.2% relative risk reduction, compared to just a 6.5% reduction in the controlled group.”
Pandey believes if his findings were confirmed in a larger, more diverse sample size, and over a longer period of study, yoga could represent an exciting opportunity to be incorporated into a cardiovascular prevention strategy and improve cardiovascular health.
Pandey said he enjoys practicing yoga with his grandmother.
“I have to bring it back to my grandmother,” he said. “Practicing yoga with her is what inspired me to do this study.”