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Yoga and Atrial Fibrillation

March 15, 2016 by staff 

Yoga and Atrial Fibrillation, This was the main finding of a study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular that compares patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation who practiced yoga with patients who did not.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition where the heart pumps blood at an irregular and often abnormally fast rate. This disrupts the flow of blood in the chambers of the heart and increases the risk of blood clots, which can result in a stroke.

AF episodes are often accompanied by chest pain, dizziness and sudden and severe shortness of breath (dyspnoea). The symptoms are unpleasant and leave patients feeling anxious and stressed as they wonder when the episode will finish, or as they anticipate the next one.

In paroxysmal AF, the episodes typically last less than 48 hours and stop by themselves, although they can last up to 7 days.

Lead author Maria Wahlström, a nurse who is studying for a PhD at the Sophiahemmet University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, explains the effect paroxysmal AF has on people’s lives:

“Many patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation can’t live their lives as they want to – they refuse dinners with friends, concerts and travelling – because they are afraid of an AF episode occurring.”

AF is the most common heart rhythm disorder and affects around 1.5-2% of people in the developed world. There is no cure for the condition, and treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing complications like stroke by using medication, cardioversion (electric shock to try and restore normal heart rhythm) and catheter ablation (removal of some tissue in the heart).

Improved mental health, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure
Wahlstr̦m says many patients use complementary therapy to help them cope with their condition, and she and her colleagues wanted to find out how effective one of these Рyoga Рmight be.

For their study, the researchers randomly assigned 80 patients with paroxysmal AF to attend yoga sessions or to a control group that did not do yoga. Both groups received standard treatment with medication, cardioversion and catheter ablation as needed.

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