Yoga May Benefit Patients with Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Contact: Amanda Jekowsky,, 202-731-3069

Study Finds Yoga to be a Safe, Effective Therapy in Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation

New Orleans, LA – Rigorous practice of yoga can help reduce episodes of irregular heartbeat and improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression often associated with atrial fibrillation – a common heart rhythm disorder. On average, yoga was found to cut patients’ episodes of atrial fibrillation in half and significantly improve quality of life, according to research presented today at the American College of Cardiology’s 60th Annual Scientific Session. ACC.11 is the premier cardiovascular medical meeting, bringing together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists to further advances in cardiovascular medicine.
Previous research has demonstrated the positive impact of yoga on overall heart health, but this is the first study to examine the benefits of yoga specifically on patients with atrial fibrillation.

“The practice of yoga is known to improve many risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, and stress and inflammation in the body,” said Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of the Center for Excellence in Atrial Fibrillation, Cardiovascular Research Institute, Mid America Cardiology, University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City, Kansas and lead investigator of the study. “There are currently no proven complementary therapies that are known to help decrease the symptoms of atrial fibrillation in a noninvasive fashion with minimal side effects and reasonable safety and efficacy.”

In this prospective, self-controlled, single-center study, researchers followed 49 patients with atrial fibrillation who had no physical limitations. During the first three-month control phase, participants were permitted to engage in any type of physical activity they were previously accustomed to doing. This was followed by a three-month study phase where patients participated in a supervised yoga program consisting of breathing exercises, yoga postures, meditation and relaxation. Forty-five minute yoga sessions were administered by a certified professional three times a week over the course of the study phase. Participants were also given an educational DVD and encouraged to practice the exercises at home on a daily basis depending on their comfort levels. All participants were new to the practice of yoga, and the program was designed to allow beginners to progress safely from basic movements to more advanced practice over the course of the study.

Episodes of irregular heartbeat were measured throughout the entire six-month study period using portable heart monitors and patient symptom log books. Participants were also asked to complete short self-administered surveys to assess anxiety, depression and quality of life scores during the control and study phases, and the differences were examined.

Data showed the yoga intervention significantly reduced the number of episodes of irregular heart beat among atrial fibrillation patients during the study phase compared to the control phase where subjects were participating in the physical activity of their choice (3.8±3 vs. 2.1±2.6, p<0.001). Yoga also reduced depression and anxiety scores (p<0.001) and improved quality of life scores in the areas of physical functioning, general health, vitality, social functioning, and mental health (p values of 0.017, <0.001, <0.001, 0.019 and <0.001, respectively).

“These findings are important because many of the current conventional treatment strategies for atrial fibrillation include invasive procedures or medications with undesirable side effects. Success with these therapies varies widely, and they are often only modestly effective in controlling heart rhythm,” Lakkireddy said. “It appears yoga has a significant impact on helping to regulate patients’ heart beat and improves their overall quality of life. Any intervention that helps in reducing or controlling the arrhythmia burden in atrial fibrillation can have a huge impact on public health.”

Given the low cost, safety and effectiveness of yoga, the authors recommend that it be considered in the overall treatment strategy for atrial fibrillation and other complex heart rhythm disorders.

Dr. Lakkireddy will be available to the media on Saturday, April 2 at 1:00 p.m. CDT in Room 338/339.
Dr. Lakkireddy will present the study “Impact of Yoga on Arrhythmia Burden and Quality of Life (QoL) in Patients with Symptomatic Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation: The Yoga My Heart Study” on Monday, April 4 at 3:30 p.m. CDT in Hall F of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

The American College of Cardiology ( represents the majority of board certified cardiovascular care professionals through education, research, promotion, development and application of standards and guidelines – and to influence health care policy. ACC.11 is the largest cardiovascular meeting, bringing together cardiologists and cardiovascular specialists to share the newest discoveries in treatment and prevention, while helping the ACC achieve its mission to address and improve issues in cardiovascular medicine.

< Back to Listings