Study: Yoga Reduces Episodes of Atrial Fibrillation
Doing the downward dog could help calm a dangerously fast heartbeat. New research suggests that yoga nearly halves episodes of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm condition that affects millions and increases the likelihood of stroke. In a small study, 49 patients ages 25 to 70 who had atrial fibrillation spent 45 minutes doing yoga three times a week for three months. During that time, participants experienced an average of 2.1 episodes of atrial fibrillation, compared to 3.8 episodes during the three months prior to beginning yoga.
They also showed fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression related to their condition, according to findings presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans. “It appears yoga has a significant impact on helping to regulate patients’ heartbeat and improves the overall quality of life,” study author Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, an associate professor with the University of Kansas Hospital, told Reuters. However, it’s no replacement for standard medical therapy, he warned: “Based on my findings, one should not tell patients that yoga will fix everything and they can stop taking their anticoagulants. Yoga is strictly a supplement for everything else they are doing medically.”
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“Advanced yogis for a long time have disproven the idea that heart rate is automatically determined by physiological need,” noted Dr. Scott Shurmur, director of preventive cardiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. “We know that meditation, yoga etc, really do provide some conscious altering of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This is the first time I’ve seen results on atrial fibrillation and its tangible evidence.”
“Absolutely, yoga can play a role in the management of atrial fibrillation,” says Dr. Louis Teichholz, medical director of the cardiac service and chief of complementary medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, who points to the breathing component of yoga — especially Prana yoga — as the key ingredient.