Native Hawaiians lowered blood pressure with hula dancing

Photo of a Hula instructor leading class

American Heart Association Meeting Report – Presentation #P3054; Session APS.3.4

Native Hawaiians who participated in a blood-pressure-lowering program incorporating their cultural dance of hula lowered their blood pressure more than those who received standard education on diet and exercise, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2019 Scientific Sessions.

“Despite medical treatment of hypertension, many Native Hawaiians have difficulty controlling their high blood pressure, which increases their risk for coronary heart disease and stroke,” said Keawe‘aimoku Kaholokula, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor and chair of the department of Native Hawaiian health at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu. “The rates of heart disease and stroke are four times higher among Native Hawaiians than in non-Hispanic whites, and they also get these diseases 10 years younger than whites and Asians in Hawaii.”

In previous research, Kaholokula and his colleagues found that typical lifestyle programs aimed at lowering blood pressure are less attractive to Native Hawaiians, who find the activity components boring or expensive and the dietary goals unrealistic and difficult to sustain over time.

“We found that Native Hawaiians want group-based and culturally relevant lifestyle interventions that resonate with their cultural values and perspectives,” Kaholokula said. “We created an intervention based on hula, the traditional dance of Native Hawaiians, which can be performed at different levels of intensity by men and women of all ages and is practiced as a form of cultural and creative expression.”

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