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How yoga can help out-of-rhythm hearts

Washington: Practice of yoga not only helps improve quality of life in patients with irregular heartbeats, but also lower their heart rate and blood pressure, according to a recent study.

Sophiahemmet University’s Maria Wahlstrom said that many patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF) 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.

Wahlstrom added that AF episodes are accompanied by chest pain, dyspnoea and dizziness. These symptoms are unpleasant and patients feel anxious, worried and stressed that an AF episode will occur. Most patients are still working and take sick leave to visit the hospital. Many patients with AF use complementary therapies so it is necessary to find out if they actually help.

The study included 80 patients with paroxysmal AF, who were randomised to yoga, or a control group that did not do yoga. Both groups received standard treatment with medication, cardioversion and catheter ablation as needed.

Yoga was performed for one hour, once a week, for 12 weeks in the hospital with an experienced instructor. The yoga programme included light movements, deep breathing, and meditation.

Wahlstrom noted that they found that patients who did yoga had a better quality of life, lower heart rate and lower blood pressure than patients who did not do yoga. If 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 concluded, “A lot of the patients I meet who have paroxysmal AF are very stressed. Yoga should be offered as a complementary therapy to help them relax. It may also reduce their visits to hospital by lowering their anxiety until an AF episode stops.”

The study appears in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing. (ANI)