8. “I do Yoga. It relaxes me and helps with my stress level. Is there any evidence on Yoga helping with other A-Fib symptoms?”
“I wouldn’t have believed until I saw it,” said Dr. Lakkireddy talking about the impact of yoga on his patients. He noticed that a couple of his patients wearing heart-rate monitors became A-Fib free when they were taking yoga classes.
Intrigued, Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy of the University of Kansas School of Medicine initiated a study to monitor a group of A-Fib patients, first for three months to assess the frequency of their A-Fib episodes, and their anxiety, depression, and quality of life. Then, in the next stage he switched them to taking yoga classes for three months. (Specifically, Iyengar yoga, which comprises breathing control exercises, yoga postures that are held for 30 to 60 seconds each and meditation/relaxation techniques.)
Yoga Study Results
The results? Yoga reduced their A-Fib episodes and improved their emotional well-being. (Specifically, the number of symptomatic A-Fib events was down, heart beat and blood pressure dropped, depression eased and anxiety decreased.)
Why did this happen? Dr. Lakkireddy suggests yoga helps minimize the extreme fluctuations in the autonomic nervous system (ANS), in this case, of patients with Atrial Fibrillation.
In a video interview, Dr. Lakkireddy said, “Yoga can actually be a very good intervention here because yoga reduces the number of episodes of A-Fib, so that means it is decreasing the probability of you developing more systemic inflammation. It is also clearly established that doing yoga reduces the overall inflammatory burden on your body.”
Speaking at the 2012 Boston AFib Symposium, he added that though yoga helps, it doesn’t cure A-Fib, “it only makes it less burdensome.”
Benefits for All (Especially the Aging Baby Boomers)
In an editorial on CardioSource.org, Drs Zografos and Katritsis commented on the Lakkireddy study findings. Because this study was small, had no control group, and only a short duration of follow-up, the results are regarded as ‘preliminary’.
But the findings are timely. They observed that, with the growing population of elderly A-Fib patients, the relative safety of yoga training, along with the added benefits of yoga (reduction of anxiety and depression, improved mobility and fall prevention), the findings of the study are all the more pertinent.
Start Yoga Slowly and Gently
Besides the possible benefits for your A-Fib, there are many other health and well-being reasons to consider adding Yoga to your routine (reduced anxiety, depression and blood pressure). If you are considering adding yoga to your treatment plan, talk to your doctor first. Once you have the go-ahead, start slowly and gently.
In an Everydayhealth.com article, Brian Leaf, director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts, and author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, recommends atrial fibrillation patients should begin with these three relaxing yoga poses:
• Alternate nostril breathing. “This breathing exercise balances the right and left hemispheres of your brain,” Leaf says.
• Cat lift and round. “This practice gently warms up the spine and nervous system and relaxes the upper back and shoulders,” Leaf says.
• Downward dog.
As you progress, consider working with a yoga instructor to modify poses to fit your physical limitations and your heart condition.
Last updated: Wednesday, February 4, 2015
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2. “I’ve read that yoga and acupuncture are considered ‘Complementary Medicine’. What is that? How does it relate to conventional medicine?
The word “complementary” means “in addition to.” “Complementary” medicine generally refers to using a non-mainstream approach together with conventional medicine, that is, treatment and medicine that you use in addition to your doctor’s standard care.
[By contrast the term “Alternative” medicine refers to using a non-mainstream approach in place of conventional medicine.]
You’ve probably heard of ‘complementary’ treatments and perhaps even used one or more. Common examples are:
♠ Massage therapy
♠ Herbal remedies
♠ Naturopathic medicine
Should You Use Complementary Medicine?
Before you decide to use this type of treatment, think about these questions:
• Why are you considering this treatment? People often use complementary medicine to treat long-term health problems or to stay healthy. But if you are looking for a “cure-all,” you may be disappointed. Before you begin to use it, make sure that you learn how well it is likely to work.
• What are you comfortable with? Part of the philosophy of some forms of complementary medicine is to listen to and touch people in a healing way. Some people find great comfort in this. Others may be bothered by it.
What are the Risks?
The greatest risk is that you may use these treatments instead of going to your regular doctor. Complementary medicine should be in addition to treatment from your doctor. Otherwise you may miss important treatment that could save your life.
Always talk to your doctor before you use any new medicines. Some herbs or supplements, for example, an be dangerous when they are combined with a prescription medicine you are taking.
What are the Benefits?
One benefit is that many people who practice complementary medicine take a “whole person,” or holistic, approach to treatment. They may take an hour or more to ask you questions about your lifestyle, habits, and background. This makes many people feel better about the treatment and the person giving the treatment itself. Some people feel more of a sense of control because they are more involved in their own health.
Beware of a practitioner who is critical of your traditional care or suggests ending it. Most ‘complementary’ practitioners also value conventional medicine.
If Considering a Complementary Healthcare Practitioner
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the U.S. Institutes of Health, offers this advice if you are considering going to a complementary health practitioner:
• Select a complementary practitioner with the same care you would use in choosing a conventional medical provider.
• Understand your state and local government’s requirements for licensing and certification of practitioners, and the limitations of those requirements.
• Do not use an unproven product or practice to replace proven conventional care or as a reason to postpone seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.
• Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.
Some insurance companies cover the costs of complementary treatments, while others may not. Check to see what your plan covers, and refer the NCCAM fact sheet Paying for Complementary Health Approaches.
For tips about talking with your health care providers about complementary health approaches, see NCCAM’s Time to Talk campaign.
Last updated: Wednesday, August 26, 2015
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