Atrial fibrillation patients doing yoga improved their quality of life and lowered their heart rate and blood pressure, a study found.
Nurse and doctoral candidate Maria Wahlström said, “Many patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF) can’t live their lives as they want to—they refuse dinners with friends, concerts, and traveling—because they are afraid of an AF episode occurring.”
Atrial fibrillation, or AF, is the most common type of arrhythmia, a problem with the rhythm of the heart beat, caused by irregular electrical activity in the heart. AF episodes may be accompanied by dyspnea (labored breathing), chest pains, and dizziness.
“These symptoms are unpleasant, and patients feel anxious, worried, and stressed that an AF episode will occur,” Wahlström said. “Many patients with AF use complementary therapies, so it is necessary to find out if they actually help.”
AF is a very common heart condition, and although it has no cure, there are various management strategies to reduce symptoms and complications.
The study, published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, included 80 participants who were randomly assigned either to a yoga group or to a control group that did not perform yoga. Both groups received standard medication and other medical treatment as required.
Yoga was performed over the course of 12 weeks for one hour a week. Blood pressure, heart rate, and quality of life were measured among all participants.
After the 12 weeks, patients who did yoga were found to have a lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and a better quality of life than patients who did not, said Wahlström.
“It could be that the deep breathing balances the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, leading to less variation in heart rate. The breathing and movement may have beneficial effects on blood pressure,” she said.
Wahlström believes yoga helps patients by giving them a sense of self-control over their symptoms, helping them to overcome the feelings of hopelessness that many experience. “Patients in the yoga group said it felt good to let go of their thoughts and just be inside themselves for a while,” she said.
The researchers have begun a larger study on 140 atrial fibrillation patients. The study will also include a group partaking in music relaxation to help distinguish whether it is the relaxation that is benefiting AF patients, or the soft movements and deep breathing of yoga.
“A lot of the patients I meet who have paroxysmal AF are very stressed,” Wahlström said. “Yoga should be offered as a complementary therapy to help them relax. It may also reduce their visits to the hospital by lowering their anxiety until an AF episode stops.”
Mohan Garikiparithi has a degree in medicine from Osmania University. He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade and served as the head of the microbiology department at a diagnostic center in India. He has an interest in homeopathy and other alternative systems of medicine. This article was originally published on BelMarraHealth.com