In a new study, researchers found people who are prone to emotion-triggered atrial fibrillation (AF) may benefit from taking a type of drug called beta blockers.
They found that beta blockers can block the effects of stress and anger in these people.
The research was conducted by a team from Yale University.
AF is an irregular, rapid heart rate condition that may lead to fatigue and shortness of breath.
Like heart attacks, this heart condition can be triggered by psychological stress and negative emotions such as anger.
Previous research has shown that among patients with a history of AF, anger, and stress were linked to subsequent episodes of AF.
In the current study, the team aimed to know whether beta blockers may reduce the triggering effect of anger or stress on AF.
They tested 95 patients who were diagnosed with AF at the Emergency Departments at Yale New Haven Hospital and The Hospital of Saint Raphael between October 2004 and August 2008.
These patients carried an electronic diary with them for a year and recorded the emotions they experienced before AF episodes, as well as captured their heart rhythm on a handheld monitor whenever they developed symptomatic AF for five or more minutes.
They also recorded their emotions while wearing 24-hour ambulatory ECG (Holter) monitors once a month.
Among them, 56 participants were prescribed agents with beta-blocking activity.
The team found that patients using beta blockers experienced anger and stress as often as those not taking these medications.
However, these emotional episodes increased the odds of AF by just four times compared with 20 times in people not taking beta blockers.
The finding suggests that beta blockers can block the negative effects of emotion in people prone to emotion-triggered AF.
Beta blockers are a class of medicines that block the effect of beta-adrenergic substances, such as adrenaline (epinephrine), that play a key role in the sympathetic portion of the involuntary nervous system.
They temporarily stop or reduce the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” responses and reduce stress on certain parts of the body, such as the heart and the blood vessels in the brain.
The lead author of the study is Rachel Lampert, MD, FHRS, Professor of Internal Medicine (Cardiology).
The study is published in HeartRhythm.
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