Yoga for the Heart
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common heart problem that affects more than 2 million Americans. This condition involves an abnormality in heart rhythm, which is brought about by the irregular contraction of the heart’s upper chamber. Although it may be asymptomatic, it can increase one’s risk for stroke.
Atrial fibrillation is often treated with drugs like beta-blockers and anticoagulants to help control heart rate and prevent thromboembolism, which can lead to stroke, but some patients do not respond well to these. Researchers led by Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy from the University of Kansas Medical Center have found that taking regular yoga classes may help reduce irregularities in heart rhythm in people suffering from AF.
For the study, the investigators monitored the heart rates of 49 participants who have been experiencing AF for about five years. They were followed for three months, and were also observed for changes in blood pressure, anxiety levels, symptoms of depression, as well as the general quality of life.
After the initial phase, they were enrolled in regular yoga classes, which they took at least twice a week for three months. They continued to take their regular medications and they were observed using the same parameters.
The researchers report that throughout the study period where yoga was practiced, the patients experienced a decrease in heart rate and reduction in anxiety and depression. Their general mental health and well being improved, according to their report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
The authors believe that although yoga is not a cure for AF, it may reduce patients’ visits to the emergency room or the need for regular medications. Further studies are needed to evaluate this form of treatment for patients with atrial fibrillation.
Pittman, G. Yoga may aid people with irregular heart rhythm. Reuters.