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Top 5 Pros (and Cons) of Alternative Therapies for Maintaining Heart Health

Pro: Stress Reduction

People in Miami Beach, Fl. take a yoga class on the beach to reduce stress.
People in Miami Beach, Fl. take a yoga class on the beach to reduce stress.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It's hard to find a downside to practicing meditation, yoga or any other stress-relieving activity that doesn't involve taking a pill or risking overexertion. Stress may feel purely emotional, but it has real physical ramifications. One result that affects the heart has to do with hypertension, or high blood pressure.

When the brain releases cortisol (the "stress hormone"), the heart tenses up, reducing the amount of space available for blood flow. This raises blood pressure, which can ultimately damage the heart's arteries.

While science has yet to declare with utter certainty that alternative medical therapies like yoga and mediation support heart health, these activities definitely reduce stress levels. At the very least, this can't be bad for the heart, and it's most likely very good. Reducing the body's stress response can have a positive effect on blood pressure. It can also reduce the desire to overeat, smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, all of which promote heart health when eliminated.

It's important, though, to make a distinction between something like yoga for stress reduction and a stress-reducer in pill form. Yoga is perfectly safe unless you have a medical condition that precludes exercise, while mood-altering supplements may have downsides, which we'll address later in the article. Before we get to the cons, let's talk about a couple more pros, like the way some heart-healthy alternative therapies -- not only yoga but also certain foods -- can also support general health and wellness if you use them properly.