WEDNESDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- People with a common heart rhythm problem may be able to decrease their symptoms by adding gentle yoga to their treatment regimen, a small study suggests.
The research, reported online Jan. 30 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, is one of the first to test the effects of yoga on the heart condition, known as atrial fibrillation.
Experts cautioned that while the findings are promising, more research is needed.
Atrial fibrillation arises when the heart's upper chambers quiver chaotically instead of contracting normally; it's not immediately dangerous but can cause symptoms like palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness. Over the long run, it can also raise the risk of strokes or heart failure.
The standard treatment includes drugs that control the heart's rhythm and rate, and aspirin to prevent blood clots.
However, those treatments are often not enough to fully prevent episodes. In the new study, researchers looked at whether adding gentle-style yoga classes to 49 patients' drug therapy could help.
Lead researcher Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy said his own father was a "yoga master," so he was familiar with the practice. But he was even more motivated by research showing that yoga can have calming effects on the nervous system, helping to lower blood pressure and heart rate.
His team found that over three months of classes, patients started having fewer symptoms -- an average of two episodes, versus almost four in the three months before taking up yoga.
Still, yoga is no replacement for medication, said Lakkireddy, a cardiologist at the University of Kansas Hospital and Medical Center in Kansas City.
"Just doing yoga alone is not going to cut it," he said. "You still need to take the appropriate medications and follow your doctor's recommendations. But this suggests that yoga ca
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