Heart DiseaseYoga

Yoga for people with atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood flow to the body.

During the annual American College of Cardiology meeting, researchers at the University of Kansas Hospital, in Kansas City, reported results from the first study to examine the benefits of yoga on patients with atrial fibrillation.

First, the details.

  • 49 patients with atrial fibrillation and no physical limitations participate in both phases of the study.
    • First 3 months, the control phase, the patients engaged in their previous physical activities.
    • Following 3 months, the yoga phase, the patients participated in a supervised yoga program (B.K.S. Iyengar‘s conventional yoga program), which included breathing exercises, yoga postures, meditation and relaxation, for an average of 45 minutes, 3 times a week. They also received an educational DVD to continue practice at home, depending on their comfort level.
  • All participants were new to yoga.
  • Episodes of irregular heartbeat were measured during the 6-month study with portable monitors and patient logs.
  • Patients also completed surveys on anxiety, depression, and quality of life.

And, the results.

  • Episodes of arrhythmia decreased significantly, from an average of 4% in the control phase to 2% during the yoga phase.
  • Asymptomatic episodes significantly decreased from 3 episodes to 1.
  • Quality of life improved significantly: anxiety score decreased 4 points, and depression scores decreased by 5 points.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Yoga can be considered in the treatment strategy for atrial fibrillation and other complex heart rhythm disorders, given that it is noninvasive, low cost, “with minimal side effects and reasonable safety and efficacy.”

Participants at the meeting suggested this is another example of the importance of reducing stress to control abnormal heart rhythms.

However, yoga should be viewed as a complementary treatment, not the main line of therapy of abnormal heart rhythms.

4/4/11 19:20 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.