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Study suggests sensitivity to bodily symptoms of anxiety may make a difference in treatment
Date:10/24/2010

at was treated with anti-arrhythmic medication and cardioversion (an electric shock to convert an abnormal heart rhythm back to normal rhythm); and a 'rate' group that received medication to help keep people's heart rates within a certain range.

Participants were followed for an average of 37 months. Results showed that, as in the overall AF-CHF trial, the majority of patients had as good a prognosis with the rate control strategy as with the rhythm control approach. In contrast, patients with high anxiety sensitivity had significantly better outcomes if they were treated with the more complicated rhythm control strategy.

"Increased emotional responses to AF symptoms in people with high anxiety sensitivity may lead to increased levels of stress hormones making them more vulnerable to fatal arrhythmias and worsening heart failure," says Dr. Frasure-Smith, a researcher at the MHI, adjunct professor of psychiatry at University of Montreal and professor of psychiatry at McGill University.

"For AF-CHF patients with high anxiety sensitivity maintenance of normal sinus rhythm appears to be important."

AF is a common type of heart arrhythmia which affects approximately a quarter of a million Canadians, including up to forty percent of individuals with congestive heart failure.

During AF the upper chamber of the heart (the atria) beats irregularly and very rapidly. Patients may experience palpitations, shortness of breath or chest pain. While by itself AF is usually not fatal, it increases the chances of heart failure and stroke. When AF and heart failure occur together, there is an increased risk of fatal outcomes, so finding the best treatment for each patient is extremely important.

"While the study − a sub analysis of a larger trial is not definitive in itself, it does raise interesting questions," says Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Dr. Beth Abramson. We tend to underestimate the power of the mind in patients on
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Contact: Jane-Diane Fraser
jfraser@hsf.ca
613-569-4361 x273
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Source:Eurekalert

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