Report: Hula Helps Reduce Hypertension

September 8, 2019, 7:01 PM HST · Updated September 10, 12:07 PM
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A study from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa indicates that hula “significantly” reduces hypertension. 

Representatives from the universityʻs John A. Burns School of Medicine presented the results of the five-year-long study at the American Heart Association national meeting on Saturday. 

Researchers recruited 263 Native Hawaiians across three islands for the study. 

It was the largest health treatment study involving Native Hawaiians ever presented at an AHA national meeting, according to a press release from the university.

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The participants attended three-hour hypertension education courses that included information on diet, exercise, and medication. 

After the course, the participants were randomly assigned to a control group that either received no additional intervention or to a hula class. 

According to the release, those who participated in the hula program lowered their blood pressure far below that of those who did not. 

The hula participants also significantly reduced their 10-year risk of heart disease and were able to sustain improvements in their blood pressure after a year, which was six months after the hula classes ended. 

“I don’t want to say I would be dead, but I would have probably had a heart attack or stroke by now because I know exactly what I didn’t do,” study participant Arma Oana said. 

“I didn’t exercise until I came to the program. I didn’t think I could.”

Principal investigator Keaweʻaimoku Kaholokula said this research suggests that Native Hawaiians prefer group-based, culturally relevant lifestyle interventions. 

“Hula is fun, it’s something you can do at an older age as well as a young age,” Kaholokula explained. 

“It can be adjusted, modified for people with different physical capabilities. I think it’s a type of physical activity that makes sense, that we can really use for health promotion.”

Kaholokula added that partners in the study are hoping to convince health insurance companies to offer coverage for certified programs that incorporate hula, similar to those that cover gym memberships.

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