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Yoga may help your heart keep in rhythm

THE benefits of yoga are said to be legion, everything from stress-busting to lowering fat and stimulating the immune system.

Now it may also help people with a common heart rhythm problem.

The American Heart Association says that about 2.7m people in the US have atrial fibrillation (AF), in which the heart's upper chambers quiver chaotically instead of contracting normally. It increases the risk of stroke.

Though AF sufferers are often prescribed beta blockers, the drugs don't work for everybody, said researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Centre in Kansas City.

Depression

"In patients with AF, yoga improves symptoms, arrhythmia burden, heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression scores, and several domains of quality of life," they wrote.

The study included 49 people who had had AF for an average of five years.

For three months, the researchers tracked their heart symptoms, blood pressure and heart rate, as well as their anxiety, depression and general quality of life.

"A lot of people ask, 'Can I just do yoga and nothing else?'," lead researcher Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy said.

"I think that's the wrong approach to take. Yoga is not a cure in itself... it is a good adjunct to what else these patients should be doing."

jlast@herald.ie