Beta Blockers Reduce Stress-Induced Atrial Fibrillation

June 5, 2019
Taking beta blockers can blunt the negative effects of stress and anger on people with a history of atrial fibrillation, according to a study published in HeartRhythm. In a previous study, Rachel Lampert, MD, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven Connecticut, and colleagues had found that anger and stress were linked to episodes of atrial fibrillation in individuals with a history of the condition. For the current study, the researchers analysed 91 patients with a history of paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation. The patients used handheld monitors to record their heart rhythm and recorded their emotions preceding an episode in an electronic diary. Additionally, the researchers tracked patients’ heart rhythms with wearable cardiac monitoring devices. Over a 1-year period, patients taking beta blockers were compared with patients not taking the medication. The study found that the likelihood of an atrial fibrillation episode was significantly higher during anger or stress. This effect, however, was significantly attenuated in patients taking beta blockers (odds ratio [OR] = 22.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], 6.7-75.4; PP = .002 for those prescribed beta blockers). “We found [that] the use of beta blockers blocked the negative effects of emotions,” said Dr. Lampert. “For those taking the medication, the experience of anger or stress was much less likely to be followed by atrial fibrillation.” While it is not known definitively why beta blockers have this effect, the study suggests potential new approaches for addressing atrial fibrillation. “Managing atrial fibrillation symptoms is imperative for quality of life,” concluded Dr. Lampert. “Confirming the impact of emotion on arrhythmia, and seeing that beta blockers can decrease this, can point the way to further therapies.” Reference: SOURCE: Yale University