Yoga Reduce Episodes of Atrial Fibrillation

Yoga Reduce Episodes of Atrial Fibrillation

Yoga Reduce Episodes of Atrial Fibrillation

Yoga Reduce Episodes of Atrial Fibrillation

Yoga Reduce Episodes of Atrial Fibrillation

Yoga Reduce Episodes of Atrial FibrillationYoga Reduce Episodes of Atrial Fibrillation

In the first study of its kind, researchers from the University of Kansas Hospital have found that the ancient art of yoga can reduce the number of episodes of atrial fibrillation, a potentially dangerous irregular heartbeat, by almost 45 percent. The results of the research is scheduled to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans.

The word yoga refers to traditional physical, mental, and disciplines that originated in India, and means “union” in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. This union occurs between the mind, body, and spirit. Although often referred to by many people as simply stretching, yoga is actually a process of creating balance in the body through the development of both strength and flexibility. This is achieved with the performance of certain poses or postures that each provide specific physical benefits. These poses can be performed rapidly in succession to create heat in the body through movement, or done more slowly to build stamina and perfect the alignment of the poses.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that significantly increases the likelihood of developing clots and for stroke. The condition affects many older Americans, and treatments include medications that carry side effects, or surgery that attempts to eliminate the abnormality of defective nerve impulses that cause the two upper chambers, or atria, of the heart to beat at high speed. Over 2 million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation.

By performing three weekly sessions of yoga during the study, patients suffering from atrial fibrillation not only benefited by calming their heart rate, but also reduced levels of anxiety and depression known to accompany the condition, as well as improved their quality of life. Regarding the results of the study, researcher Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, a cardiologist at University of Kansas Hospital, noted, “There’s an intimate connection between the brain and the heart.” He then added, “It doesn’t mean atrial fibrillation is cured by yoga, but it decreases its impact on your life. “These patients feel better and think they can deal with their symptoms better than they could before.”

The research team, from Mid-America Cardiology at the University of Kansas Hospital, pointed out that although prior research has shown other heart-healthy benefits of yoga, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and more elastic arteries, this is the first study to specifically examine atrial fibrillation.

For their study, the researchers followed 49 patients ranging in age from 25 to 70, who suffered from atrial fibrillation. For the first three months of the trial, patients were allowed to engage in a regular exercise routine of their choice. For the second three months, patients attended three weekly yoga sessions with a certified instructor, and were encouraged to practice at home with an educational DVD. The yoga sessions included breathing exercises, various positions, meditation, and relaxation. The participants wore ambulatory heart monitors to objectively measure atrial fibrillation.

While practicing yoga, study participants experienced only 2.1 episodes of atrial fibrillation in comparison to an average of 3.8 episodes during the three months period of regular exercise, just prior to beginning yoga sessions. In addition, quality of life scores improved by an average of 5 to 6 points on the SF-36 scale (a multi-purpose health survey of 36 questions), while anxiety scores dropped by about 4 points, and depression fell by an average of 5 points on the Zung Anxiety and Depression Score scales (self-rating anxiety and depression scales having 20 questions each).

Although the findings of the study are very encouraging, experts stress that they are preliminary. Limitations of the research included the non-randomized design, lack of a separate control group, and a relatively small sample size.

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