boezemfibrilleren-en-stress

Atrial fibrillation and stress

According to patients, stress is the most important factor for the onset of an atrial fibrillation attack

A poll conducted on the AFIP website revealed that 25% of the patients who voted have suffered an AF attack because of stress. It seems that long-term stress can have a highly negative impact, although there has been little research dedicated to this issue. How do you recognise stress? What can you do to reduce stress?

What do we know so far about Atrial Fibrillation and stress:

  • Short-term stress makes you perform better
  • Chronic stress is becoming increasingly common and difficult to recognise
  • Chronic stress is unhealthy and causes a constant production of stress hormones
  • Stress hormones (e.g. cortisol) get their energy from cells and therefore cause damage
  • Chronic stress can eventually cause atrial fibrillation
  • Research shows that yoga can reduce atrial fibrillation

Chronic stress is the main cause of atrial fibrillation

There are 2 types of stress: short-term stress and chronic (long-term) stress. Research shows that short-term stress improves performance. Your body produces stress hormones, including cortisol. They are the ones that ensure you have full focus during a performance, a job interview or before an important deadline.

Chronic stress is the main cause of atrial fibrillation. Meaning that long-term stress that develops gradually is the main contributor to AF. However, the speed at which one can suffer from chronic stress varies from person to person.

Chronic stress may damage heart cells

Cortisol affects the body in several ways. In the long run, these can be extremely detrimental. Some of the issues resulting from cortisol include:

    • Breakdown of muscle tissue (proteins)
    • Breakdown of adipose tissue (fats) to release energy
    • Weightloss
    • Stopping menstruation in women
    • A suppressed immune system, making you more prone to infections

With chronic stress, your cortisol levels remain constantly high. In the long term, this can lead to higher glycogen levels in your heart cells. This changes the electrical signals in the atrium and oxygen radicals are produced. As a result, damage to the atrial heart cells may arise and eventually it can even cause atrial fibrillation.

How do you recognize stress?

It is therefore of vital importance to avoid chronic stress. But can one recognize the early signs of stress and act accordingly? As psychologists Mariska Verduijn and Ana Bloemraad indicate in their book ‘With stress in balance’, it is often difficult to recognize chronic stress.

Common symptoms are rapid, high breathing and a tense posture. In the book you will find various tests that help you to recognize chronic stress.

You can ask yourself several questions, for example:

  • How do I sit in my chair?
  • Are my shoulders relaxed?
  • How fast is my breathing?
  • Is my breathing high or low?
  • How energetic do I feel right now?
Reducing stress with yoga

Over time, we are increasingly learning how to recognize stress and discovering more ways to deal with it. However, truth be told, what works best varies from person to person.

In any case, physical and mental relaxation is the most important factor when it comes to combating stress. Looking for new ways to de-stress? Yoga and meditation are among the activities that can truly help bring down stress levels and relax.

Yoga and atrial fibrillation

Scientific research has shown that yoga and meditation reduce cortisol, oxygen free radicals, and DNA damage in the blood. These blood markers are also associated with atrial fibrillation. Therefore, we can assume that Yoga can have a beneficial effect on reducing this heart rhythm disorder. For example, the Yoga My Heart study shows that yoga (2 times a week for an hour for 3 months) in patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation can result in:

  • Fewer episodes of atrial fibrillation
  • Less Depressive Episodes
  • Less Anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Improving quality of life

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