HealthDay News — Yoga significantly reduces clinical symptoms and improves quality-of-life measures in patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF), results from a small, proof-of-concept study suggest.
After three months of yoga training, patients had fewer symptoms and less AF measured on cardiac nonlooping event monitors compared with a pre-training control period, Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, MD, from the University of Kansas Hospital & Medical Center in Kansas City, and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Yoga participants continued to experience declines in heart rate and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure observed during the control period (P<0.001 for all), the researchers found.
The Yoga My Heart Study involved 49 patients with symptomatic paroxysmal AF, and involved an initial 3-month observation period during which yoga was not performed, followed by 3 months of yoga training, which took place in 60-minute sessions twice a week. Participants were provided with educational DVDs and encouraged to practice at home.
Average patient age was 61 years and AF lasted an average of 5.3 years at baseline. Short Form-36 (SF-36), Zung self-rated anxiety, and Zung self-rated depression scores were measured at baseline and before and after the study phase.
Eleven patients (22%) experienced an AF episode during the control phase but not during the yoga phase. Additionally, quality of life, depression, and anxiety did not change during the control phase, but all showed significant improvements following the yoga phase. Specifically, patients experienced significant improvements in quality-of-life measures, including physical functioning, general health, vitality, social functioning and mental health (P<0.02 for all).
Although the mechanisms of action behind the beneficial effects of yoga are unknown, the researchers offered several potential explanations.
“Yoga may prevent the atrial fibrillation initiation and perpetuation through its pleiotropic effects such as: increasing the baseline parasympathetic tone, suppressing extreme fluctuations in the two autonomic nervous system components, and decreasing the progression of the arrhythmia by preventing or minimizing atrial remodeling,” they wrote.
Yoga therapy was not associated with any major adverse effects.