Study: Yoga Improves Symptoms in Some Patients with Heart Problems

A new abstract from the European Society of Cardiology 2020 Congress suggests that some patients derive cardiac benefits, particularly for atrial fibrillation (AFib), from practicing yoga.

“The symptoms of atrial fibrillation can be distressing,”  study author Dr. Naresh Sen of HG SMS Hospital, Jaipur, India, said in a news release. “They come and go, causing many patients to feel anxious and limiting their ability to live a normal life.”

The study included 538 patients with AFib enrolled between 2012 and 2017, with patients serving as their own controls. Patients engaged in no yoga for a period of 12 weeks, and then for the next 16 weeks attended a half-hour yoga session every other day. These classes begin with a chant then slowly transition to different postures and breathing exercises. Patients were encouraged to researchers to practice the movements and breathing exercises on their own at home as well. Patients kept a diary of symptoms and episodes of AFib.

According to the results reported in the abstract, patients experienced and reported significant improvements in all studied areas over the 16-week yoga period in comparison with the 12-week non-yoga period. Patients experienced on average 15 symptomatic episodes of AFib in the non-yoga period versus eight in the yoga period. The authors also reported an 11/6 mm Hg reduction in average blood pressure after yoga training.

“Our study suggests that yoga has wide-ranging physical and mental health benefits for patients with atrial fibrillation and could be added on top of usual therapies,” Dr. Sen said of the results.

According to the accompanying release, on in four middle-aged adults in Europe and in the United States. AFib is responsible for 20% to 30% of all strokes and is associated with increased risk for death in men and a two-fold increase for death in women. In addition, reduced quality of life is common in patients with AFib, and between 10% and 40% of patients living with the condition are hospitalized annually.