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Biofeedback breathing and Cardiovascular Conditions

Biofeedback breathing is generally considered low-risk (and potentially beneficial) to individuals with cardiovascular conditions. In this post, we provide resources for individuals who wish to know about biofeedback breathing safety for atrial fibrillation, premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) and heart palpitations.

Atrial Fibrillation

If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (Afib) and it is intermittent (paroxysmal), biofeedback breathing is considered safe for you practice. However, most experts recommend that you avoid practicing when you are experiencing an active episode of Afib. 

There is not enough scientific evidence to say whether biofeedback breathing helps people with Afib. biofeedback breathing is not likely to help with the underlying electrical causes of Afib. Instead, it may help you reduce or manage your lifestyle triggers of Afib. These can include drinking alcohol or caffeine, or experiencing stress and/or poor sleep. If you like, you can try tracking the frequency, duration, and severity of your Afib episodes before versus after several weeks of biofeedback breathing practices to see if it helps you with trigger management.  

Research linking biofeedback breathing to Afib trigger management

Premature Ventricular Contractions

PVCs are extra heartbeats (or irregular contractions), which are one type of arrhythmia.  They can feel like fluttering, pounding or skipped heartbeats, with a feeling of unease. When PVCs are infrequent, you can continue practicing biofeedback breathing. 

Occasional PVCs usually do not require any treatment, unless your doctor has told you that you have heart disease. Lifestyle factors, such as caffeine, alcohol, smoking, stress or anxiety, exercise, and medications (e.g., for allergies) can increase the likelihood of PVCs.  

Our remote sensing devices and staff are not designed or intended to diagnose PVCs or cardiovascular disease. If you experience frequent or severe symptoms, please consult your physician.

Heart Palpitations

Biofeedback breathing brings attention to your heartbeat. Some people experience this attention as uncomfortable awareness of the heartbeat or palpitations. The experience of heart palpitations during HRV biofeedback without any known cardiac diagnoses should not by itself cause alarm. If you experience a new onset of bothersome heart palpitations during your practice, discontinue and contact your primary care provider for guidance.