Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition in which the upper two chambers of the heart, called the atria, beat chaotically and irregularly, resulting in an irregular and often rapid heart rate that causes poor blood flow to the body. The heart rate in AF may range from 100 to 175 beats a minute. Common symptoms include palpitations, Atrial Flutter weakness, light-headedness, confusion, breathlessness and chest pain.
AF can be either sporadic, in which case it is called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, or chronic. Possible causes of AF include high blood pressure; heart attacks; previous heart, lung or metabolic diseases; viral infections; sleep apnea; or exposure to stimulants such as medications, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol. Old age, a family history, a history of heart and other chronic conditions, and alcohol use are risk factors for AF. Atrial flutter is very much similar to AF with respect to symptoms, causes and risk factors, but the heart rate in this condition is much slower.
The conventional treatment of AF is aimed at cardioversion – attempting to reset the heart rhythm back to normal – either with medicines, electric shock or surgery. Ayurvedic treatment for AF is indicated for those patients in whom conventional methods have not been successful or are not possible. The Ayurvedic treatment of AF is aimed at reducing or normalizing the heart rate, preventing recurrence and preventing complications like stroke and heart failure.
In order to reduce the heart rate, medicines like Bruhat-Vat-Chintamani, Maha-Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Laxmi-Vilas-Ras, Suvarna-Bhasma, Abhrak-Bhasma and Shrung-Bhasma are used. These medicines are given in combination with herbal medicines which act on the heart muscle, such as Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), Tankan (Purified borax), Guggulu (Commiphora mukul), Draksha (Vitis vinifera), Triphala (Three fruits), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis), Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa), Khurasani-ova (Hyoscymus niger), Apamarga (Achyranthus aspera), Sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina), Pippalimool (Piper longum) and Pushkarmool (Inula racemosa). The above mentioned medicines also help to reduce high blood pressure and normalize heart and lung pathology, to the extent possible with medicines.
Medicines like Triphala (Three fruits), Trikatu (Three pungent herbs), Marich (Piper nigrum), Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), Bhallatak (Semicarpus anacardium), Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and Harmal (Paganum harmala) are used to prevent or reduce the risk of blood clots and strokes. These medicines also act on the heart and normalize irregular heartbeat. Once the symptoms are controlled, medicines like Bruhat-Vat-Chintamani, Shrung-Bhasma, Chandrakala-Ras and Kamdudha-Ras can be given on a long term basis to prevent recurrence of AF.
Patients with AF need to adopt a healthy lifestyle and eat healthy food with a reduced salt intake. Cessation of smoking and avoiding alcohol is very important. Caution needs to be exercised when taking over-the-counter medications. Regular exercise and relaxation techniques need to be adopted. All such patients should be under the regular care and supervision of a Cardiologist.