How Does Stress Affect Atrial Fibrillation?

In this video I discuss ways in which STRESS can affect your atrial fibrillation and management tips to reduce your symptoms.

How does stress affect atrial fibrillation?

We live in a very stressful world these days. When patients are first diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, they sometimes blame the stress in their lives for actually causing the AFib. However, a lot of times these patients still have the most common risk factors that can cause atrial fibrillation, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, age, or family history of atrial fibrillation.

So, can stress actually cause atrial fibrillation?

The answer to that is typically no. Stress is not a common risk factor for developing atrial fibrillation. However, can stress actually influence atrial fibrillation? For patients who have AFib, stress can certainly affect your condition, and make your episodes more severe, or last longer. And it's common that when people already have AFib, they're notice more episodes, or more severe symptoms during episodes of stress.

So, how does stress actually influence your AFib?

If influences it through a variety of ways:

First, when you're undergoing a lot of stress, your body releases a lot of stress related hormones which can increase your blood pressure and cause episodes of atrial fibrillation. In addition, during episodes of stress, there may be more caffeine use, or more alcohol use than typical. Also, during periods of stress, you may not be sleeping as well. And that sleep depravation can also cause episodes of atrial fibrillation.

Now, let's say we got rid of all the stress in our lives. Would you be cured of atrial fibrillation? It would be unlikely that that would actually cure your atrial fibrillation. But it can certainly make your symptoms better, less frequent, or less severe. So, managing the stress in your life is a very important component for managing atrial fibrillation.

Are there ways that stress can be better managed? Does stress management improve symptoms for AFib patients? Currently, there is no known medical cure for atrial fibrillation. Instead, medical professionals focus on symptom relief and preventing AFib complications such as stroke using medical therapies and/or surgical procedures. Stress can cause atrial fibrillation to be more troublesome to sufferers. Therefore, it is recommended that you find natural ways to effectively manage your stress. Before starting any stress reduction program, get the advice of your doctor. There are many ways a patient can promote stress reduction such as through yoga or mediation, regular exercise, and patient or family support groups.

One natural way to reduce stress for AFib patients may be the regular practice of yoga, which had a small study published in 2016. A nurse and PhD candidate at Sophiahemmet University and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, Maria Wahlström, did a study in 2016 of yoga’s effects on patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Wahlström was curious to find out if these alternative health therapies actually help AFib patients.

Are there natural treatments for AFib? In this video series I discuss natural treatments for atrial fibrillation including diet and exercise, sleep apnea, stress management, and weight loss.

Wahlström conducted the study using 80 patients with paroxysmal AFib, Patients performed yoga for one hour once a week for 12 weeks. The yoga program included light movements, deep breathing, and meditation. Participants of the control group did not do yoga.

Both mental and physical quality of life, heart rate and blood pressure were measured in all program participants at the beginning and at the study’s completion.

After recording these criteria, at random, Wahlström placed patients into two groups. The control group received standard paroxysmal atrial fibrillation medical treatment. Standard medical treatment consists of medication, cardioversion, and catheter ablation as appropriate.

The second group also received standard medical paroxysmal atrial fibrillation treatment but added the yoga regimen as described earlier. Once weekly for 12 weeks, the patients who incorporated yoga, deep breathing, light movements, and meditation enjoyed stress reduction benefits.

At the end of the study, those who practiced yoga gained higher mental health scores, lower heart rate, and lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than the control group. In fact, there was no change in mental and physical qualify of life, heart rate or blood pressure in the control group.

Could yoga naturally reduce your stress? After discussing whether or not yoga might be right for you with your medical care provider, it might be something to do to naturally reduce your stress. But Always discuss with your doctor stress management tips that are best for you.