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Yoga Helps Stroke Survivors -- Even Skeptical Ones


"Yoga is for girls, yoga is for hippies," is what a group of older male veterans -- and stroke survivors -- told researchers who wanted to see if doing some basic yoga movements would help improve the veterans' balance.

But then the group tried yoga anyway, and boy, were they surprised.

They discovered that even long after having a stroke, working on basic, easy yoga poses helped them improve their balance, as well as boost their confidence and ability to handle everyday tasks.

"People can improve their balance years after a stroke. They can change their brain and change their body. They are not stuck with what they have," study researcher Arlene Schmid with Roudebush Veterans Administration-Medical Center and Indiana University told WebMD.

The veterans were part of a study that involved 47 participants, three-fourths of whom were male, including veterans of World War II. The oldest subject was in his 90s.

The study, published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke, found that stroke survivors who practice yoga can improve balance, giving them more confidence to handle daily activities and potentially reducing future disability, reported

The study's subjects were divided into two groups. Ten received no therapy. The other 37 got a specialized version of yoga developed by a yoga therapist and the research team.

At first the men in the group were skeptical that the yoga would help, Schmid said. But after a couple of sessions -- and with encouragement from their wives -- they changed their minds.

They practiced modified seated, standing and floor-based yoga exercises. By the end of eight weeks, the yoga group showed significant improvement in balance. The yoga movements also increased their confidence and reduced their fear of falling -- a major risk among stroke survivors.

Schmid noted that  rehabilitation therapy for stroke patients typically ends after six months, but that brain changes and physical improvements can continue to occur after six months.

"The study demonstrated that with some assistance, even chronic stroke patients with significant paralysis on one side an manage to do modified yoga poses," she told

Added Roger Bonomo, director of stroke care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City: "Anything that can reduce the risk of falls -- a common sequel of stroke -- is welcome, as is anything that improves mood and lessens symptoms of depression in the post-stroke patient," he told HealthDay.

In other health news:

More older Americans have chronic health condition. More than one in five middle-aged U.S. adults, and nearly half of adults over age 65, have more than one chronic health condition, such as hypertension and diabetes, according to a new government report. NBC News reports that in 2010, 21.3 percent of women and 20.1 percent of men between ages 45 and 64 had at least two chronic health conditions. In 2000, the rate among men was 15.2 percent, and among women it was 16.9 percent.

Improved vision after cataract surgery reduces risk of hip fracture. The New York Times reports that older people who have eye surgery to remove cataracts and improve their vision also significantly reduce their risk of breaking a hip in a fall, with the sickest among them and those in their early 80s experiencing nearly 30 percent fewer hip fractures in the first year, a large study finds.

Less recurrence of uterine fibroids in older women compared to younger women. Women under 40 who have a minimally invasive treatment to remove uterine fibroids are more likely to have a recurrence than women over 40, a new study finds. The younger women were almost six times more likely to have fibroids grow back compared to older women, Reuters reports.

Photo credit:  Knut Schultz/Corbis

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