Alternative Therapies & Dietary and Lifestyle Considerations
Acupuncture refers to a procedure involving stimulation of a variety of points on the body using needles that are inserted manually (NCCAM 2012). A study that enrolled 80 patients with persistent atrial fibrillation was conducted to evaluate whether acupuncture treatment had any effects on recurrence rates and whether it was able to prevent arrhythmias. After patients had their normal heart rhythms restored via cardioversion, they were treated with amiodarone (Cordarone®), acupuncture, sham-acupuncture (a procedure wherein acupuncture needles are inserted into the “wrong” points), or given no treatment. The results revealed that recurrence rates were lower in the acupuncture group (35%) than the sham (69%) or control (54%) groups (Lomuscio 2011). The recurrence rates in patients treated with amiodarone were 27%. Analysis of data from 8 separate studies showed that 87-100% of participants converted to normal heart rhythm after acupuncture treatment (VanWormer 2008).
The Mediterranean diet has been shown to provide cardioprotective effects. A study conducted in 2011 sought to study the relationship between this type of diet, vitamin intake, and the incidence of arrhythmias. The study recruited 800 subjects, 400 of which had detected their first episode of atrial fibrillation. Low adherence to this diet was associated with the development of atrial fibrillation, and high adherence with spontaneous conversion back to normal electrical impulses in the heart. While further studies in a larger population are required to corroborate these findings, high adherence to a Mediterranean diet may potentially prevent atrial fibrillation episodes (Mattioli 2011).
Other lifestyle measures that may reduce risk of arrhythmia include (Pepe 2010; Park 2009; Mattioli 2011):
- Adequate exercise (Shea 2008)
- Maintaining a healthy body weight (Fuster 2011; Tedrow 2010)
- Quitting smoking (Chamberlain 2011; Shea 2008)
- Cutting back on caffeine (Fuster 2011; Mattioli 2008, 2011; Shea 2008)
- Cutting back on alcohol (Shea 2008; Fuster 2011; Kodama 2011)
- Reducing stress (Magri 2012; Shea 2008)
- Avoiding stimulant medications (eg, pseudoepinephrine) (Shea 2008)