Medical yoga and acupressure reduce blood pressure and heart rates in patients with AF
Two abstracts that are being presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s EuroHeartCare Congress, Glasgow, United Kingdom, show the potential of medical yoga and acupressure to reduce blood pressure and heart rate in atrial fibrillation (AF) patients.
A third a abstract, a survey revealed that complementary and alternative therapies were widely used by patients attending cardiology clinics, raising concerns people may not be routinely informing health care staff about their use.
In the first abstract Maria Nilsson, a nurse from Danderyd Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden, who has practiced yoga for the last 10 years along with fellow associate V. Frykman, examined whether medical yoga has effect, as part of treatment, on subjective perceived quality of life, blood pressure and heart rate in paroxysmal atrial fibrillation patients. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation is a type of atrial fibrillation in which the irregular heartbeat occurs every so often.
For this prospective study of 80 patients with diagnosis paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, were randomized to usual treatment and yoga or just the usual treatment.
The medical yoga was specifically designed for patients with cardiovascular diseases, focusing on deep breathing in movements. The yoga sessions were held once a week for one hour for a three month period.
Patients filled out health questionnaires before the intervention and after three months. Blood pressure and heart rate where measured at the beginning and after three months.
Systolic blood pressure for patients in the yoga group dropped from 137 mmHg at the start of the study to 132mmHg after three months; whereas the systolic blood pressure of patients in the control group increased from 138 mmHg at the start of the study to 141 mmHg after three months.
Diastolic blood pressure for patients in the yoga group decreased from 83 mmHg at baseline to 77 mmHg after three months; whereas diastolic blood pressure for patients in the control group rose from 84mmHg at baseline to 87mmHg after three months.
Heart rate decreased in the yoga group from 64 beats; minute at the start of the study to 60 beats per minute after three months; whereas heart rate rose in the control group from 65 beats per minute at the start of the study to 69 beats per minute after three months.
According to the health questionnaires, patients in the medical yoga group had showed improvements in quality of life and mental quality of life after three months.
In their conclusion the researchers write “Medical yoga with light movements, deep breathing and relaxation leads to subjective improvement of health, lower blood pressure and heart rate. These effects may be of importance that medical yoga can be a complementary treatment method for patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.”
Nilsson commented “We chose to use medical yoga, which is a form of yoga involving deep breathing, light movements, meditation and relaxation. The advantage here is that the movements are easy to learn and can be performed while sitting in a chair.” She adds the team is doing further research to see if reductions in blood pressure and heart rate result in a decreased frequency of PAF episodes.
In the second study, Professor Ozlem Ceyhan, a nurse trainer from Erciyes University, Kayseri, along with fellow researchers in this randomized controlled experimental study set out to determine the effect of acupressure on heart rhythm and rate and its relation with fatigue in patients with AF.
This study involved 60 patients that were hospitalized in the cardiology service and matched with the study criteria and who had applied to cardiology clinic. The patients at random were either assigned to the acupressure intervention group with acupressure being performed on points PC6, HT7, CV17, by specifically developed acupressure device two times a day in two (minimum) or four (maximum) sessions while medical treatment was continuing. The other 30 patients were assigned to the placebo group were a device was also bound to placebo group patients without applying pressure in the same session system.
A Holter monitor (portable device for continuously monitoring various electrical activity of the cardiovascular system) was fixed to all of the patients who were monitored before, during and after the application or intervention in terms of checking pulse and blood pressure in every session.
Results showed that significant decreases in pulse rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure were found for patients allocated to the intervention group compared to those allocated to the placebo group (p<0.05, for all three).
The researchers write “repeated acupressure application may be recommended to be used for reducing blood pressure and tempering pulse rate in addition to pharmacological therapy.”
Professor Ceyhan stated “One thing that was really notable in our study was that we did not observe that any patients in the intervention group had further attacks of AF while in hospital, compared to 10% of patients in the placebo group suggesting acupressure may be preventing further attacks.” She adds acupressure was an easy to use technique that patients could administer on themselves at home to reduce the frequency of AF attacks. She further notes the research team is now looking to explore other acupressure points to see if they might have an effect on sinus rhythm.
In the third abstract Professor Stephen Leslie, BSc (Hons) MB ChB FRCP (Edin) FRCP (Glas) PhD and Dr. Jenny Jones, MD, PHD, and colleagues, from the University of Stirling, Scotland,, conducted a survey about use of complementary and alternative therapies (CATS).
The survey was completed by 116 people attending a cardiology outpatient’s clinic over an eight week period. Survey questions included ‘What complementary therapies have you used?’ and ‘Do you think that CAM should be provided by the NHS?’ and’ Should the NHS be doing more research on the effects of complementary therapies to see if they can help with symptom management alongside your conventional treatment?’.
The results showed that 52% of respondents (60 people) reported use of at least one CAT; 66% (77 people) believed that CATs should be available within the NHS; and that 88% (102) believed that more research should be performed in these areas. Furthermore, the investigators found that the top five most popular CATs were reflexology, acupuncture, osteopathy, massage and chiropractic therapies.
Professor Leslie commented “When we looked back at patient notes, we found that very few people had volunteered this clinically important information in consultations, suggesting that they don’t often disclose CAT use to cardiology teams.”
Professor Jones emphasized the fact that cardiac patients would like to see further research carried out to assess the risks and benefits of CAM in relation to cardiovascular disease. “This would enable the balance between risks, benefits and efficacy of various CATs and CAMs to be honestly discussed with cardiac patients,” said Jones.