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UCSD study to test benefits of yoga and stretching among adults at risk for diabetes and heart disease

Diabetes and heart disease have increased rapidly in the last decade, and are fueled by an epidemic of obesity. The Metabolic Syndrome is a group of disorders that occur at the same time and are linked to a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The Metabolic Syndrome is diagnosed when 3 of the following factors are present: high blood pressure, high glucose (blood sugar), high triglycerides, low HDL (good, protective) cholesterol, and abdominal obesity (belly fat). 

One of every 4 American adults has the metabolic syndrome, and the risk increases after age 40, and among selected ethnic groups. The UCSD Health Assessment Study of African-American Women (HASAAW), directed by Dr. Wilma Wooten, found one of every three (37%) of the 450 community participants had the metabolic syndrome compared to 25% among Caucasian women. During the same time, Dr. Happy Araneta showed that almost half (41%) of Filipinas in the UCSD Filipino Women’s Health Study had the metabolic syndrome, despite their low rates of obesity. Among Filipinas, the most common components of the metabolic syndrome were high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol. The findings have been published in medical journals, including Diabetes Care and Obesity Research.

Previous studies have shown that eating a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, however maintaining these behaviors can be hard for some people. Gentle forms of exercise such as yoga or active stretching might be a useful alternative. A study at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) showed that after 10 weeks of yoga, there was a trend towards reduced blood pressure, a significant increase in energy level and a trend towards improved well-being and stress. These results were published by UCSF professor, Dr. Alka Kanaya, in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders.

UCSD is collaborating with Dr. Kanaya and UCSF to determine if stretching or restorative yoga will improve the health of adults with the metabolic syndrome. The Practicing Restorative Yoga or Stretching for Metabolic Syndrome (PRYSMS) is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Unlike standard exercise interventions which emphasize aerobic activity, the stretches and yoga poses in the PRYSMS study encourage gentle exercise for relaxation and stress reduction.

Participants must be between the ages of 21 and 65, overweight, underactive (exercise less than 150 minutes per week), available to participate for one year, and have either high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or prediabetes, or had diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes).

Participants will receive free yoga or active stretch classes near the UCSD campus in La Jolla, yoga and stretch accessories, a DVD for home practice sessions, and $50 after completing each of 4 required clinical visits. To determine if there are improvements in blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol and inflammatory markers associated with heart disease and diabetes, participants will be required to attend a clinical visit every 3 months. Salivary cortisol (a stress hormone) will also be measured to assess stress levels.  Measures of abdominal fat, by CT scan, will be performed to determine if yoga or stretch is effective in reducing harmful belly fat.

To learn more about the PRYSMS study, please visit our website, which includes a video of the proposed yoga/stretch poses.

If you have friends or family members who might benefit from this gentle lifestyle intervention, please ask them to call (858) 534-8118 or email:

15 comments on “UCSD study to test benefits of yoga and stretching among adults at risk for diabetes and heart disease

My wife’s uncle has diabetes. It makes his life tougher but not impossible. I’ve always liked the saying “Diabetes won’t kill you ; not managing it will”

Diabetes is an unusual and large challenge, but it is done (jay cutler, for example, has type 1 diabetes). My son, a soccer player, also has type i diabetes. Best of luck to austin in managing the condition. It will be hard, but it is possible to live a life with 100% normal activity – takes a lot more work than it will for other people, no doubt about it, but after a while, you get into a rhythm with it, and life goes forward.

Douglas Humphrey

I have received in the mail an invitation to participate in this program.
However the mailing did not include a sign-up form or an application. There was a telephone number which i have left a message on. I would like to participate very much in this program. I believe I fit the required profile.

I have been doing Yoga since college and i love the way that it can relax my body. yoga is great for stress relief. “

With current advances in stem cell research, it won’t be long before we can find a permanent cure for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. ‘

diabetes is a serious disease but it can be avoided by having an physically active lifestyle~;-

i always do Yoga every week because it is essential to my overall well being-.`

It can help you see your bliss, and some say yoga may also be helpful you shed those people extra fat. it isn’t clear just how yoga might help people keep off the fat, at least from a scientific standpoint.

diabetes is of course a nasty disease and it could be avoided by just having good exercise “

Yoga exercise is one of the best traditional physical and mental disciplines, comparable to Tai Chi. I practise together and I feel my mind and body better and much healthier.

I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your weblog and check again here frequently. I am quite sure I will learn lots of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

I hope what you have said on this blog works. I hear that having pre diabetes doesnt mean that you will get type 2 diabetes

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