KU hospital study shows yoga can treat heart problems

Photo used under a Creative Commons agreement courtesy RelaxingMusic.

People have claimed health benefits from yoga in its 5,000 years of practice, among them Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy’s yoga instructor grandfather.

Studies suggest it can slow heart rates and reduce blood pressure, but Lakkireddy’s Kansas University Hospital research now indicates it can also treat heart problems.

He hopes his pilot study on about 50 people will lead to large national studies that prove yoga effective in treating atrial fibrillation and other problems.

The study published last week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that just two yoga sessions a week can reduce episodes of atrial fibrillation’s racing and uncontrolled heart beats.

Patients from 18 to 80 who did yoga for three months reduced those incidences by about 30 to 40 percent, the study found. It also reduced depression, anxiety, resting heart rates and blood pressure.

“Yoga is not a substitute for medical therapy – they need to take their medications,” Lakkireddy said, but it can be added and amount to treatment itself.

“It is something very easy and not expensive,” he said.

He has started other studies, including one to see the effects of yoga on syncope, when patients, often young women, faint when their heart slows or stops for periods.

Lakkireddy was born in India, where his grandfather was a yoga instructor, but he gave up yoga when young and just took it up again in the last few years. He started his first study after a patient told him yoga helped prevent the onset of atrial fibrillation, he said.

The doctor now does yoga himself twice a week, he said. When it comes to that and his study, he said of his grandfather,  “If he were alive I think he would be very happy.”

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