Justine Owens and her colleagues from the University of Virginia Mindfulness Center, the Division of Cardiology, and the Division of General, Geriatric, Palliative and Hospital Medicine have just published the results of their study of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for the treatment of heart palpitations in the International Journal of Cardiology. Benign palpitations, the unpleasant sensations of an abnormal heart rhythm, are a common symptom of individuals presenting to internists and cardiologists. While not associated with a serious cardiac condition, they can be highly distressing. Twenty participants were randomly assigned to either participate in an initial MBSR course during the study, or to a wait-list control group who participated in a later MBSR course after the study was completed. Initial MBSR group participants reported a significant reduction in heart palpitations at the conclusion of the MBSR training, on average a difference score of 2.2 on an 8-point palpitation frequency scale, while the wait-list control group did not report any change with an average difference score of 0.1. The difference between groups was statistically significant and was sustained at one month follow-up (with continued improvement) with MBSR participants reporting an average palpitation reduction of 2.8 on the palpitation frequency scale compared to the wait-list control group average reduction of 0.2. The authors concluded that MBSR appears to be an effective treatment for benign heart palpitations and should be studied further.
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