MONDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- Practicing yoga may reduce episodes of irregular heartbeat and improve the symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with atrial fibrillation, while remaining physically active throughout a lifetime may prevent declines in heart mass, according to research presented at the American College of Cardiology's 60th Annual Scientific Session & Expo, held from April 2 to 5 in New Orleans.
In a prospective, self-controlled, single-center study, Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, M.D., of the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, and colleagues evaluated 49 patients with atrial fibrillation who had no physical limitations. Participants were permitted to engage in any type of physical activity they were previously used to doing during a three-month control phase, followed by a three-month study phase in which participants engaged in a supervised yoga program. The investigators found that the yoga intervention significantly reduced the number of episodes of irregular heartbeat among atrial fibrillation patients during the study phase compared to the control phase of the study (3.8 versus 2.1). Yoga also reduced depression and anxiety scores and improved quality of life scores.
In another study, Benjamin Levine, M.D., of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, and colleagues evaluated 121 healthy subjects with no evidence of heart disease who were either sedentary or lifelong exercisers. Lifelong exercisers were stratified into groups based on the number of times per week they exercised. While sedentary subjects' heart mass diminished with age, the investigators found that lifelong exercisers had heart mass expansion with increasing frequency of exercise.
"The data suggest that if we can identify people in middle age, in the 45 to 60 year range, and get them to exercise four to five times a week, this may go a very long way in preventing some of the major heart conditions of old age, including heart failure," Levine said in a statement. "Defining how to intervene at the right time and with the right dose (of physical activity) are critical questions we need to answer both from a public health standpoint, but also as cardiologists we want our patients to remain healthy and forestall heart problems."
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