Prednisone linked to increased risk for atrial fibrillation

Prednisone linked to increased risk for atrial fibrillation

(NaturalHealth365) Corticosteroids, like prednisone, are often taken by persons with arthritis, allergies and asthma. These drugs help reduce the inflammation so common to these issues. However, corticosteroids are now being linked with troublesome health complications including atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat), stroke, heart failure and other cardiovascular issues.

A 2006 study of these drugs published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that prednisone brings on heartbeat changes, or atrial fibrillation. The study concluded that taking corticosteroids, like prednisone, increased the risk of new-onset atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common kind of irregular heartbeat. However, there also seemed to be a correlation between risk and the amount of corticosteroids taken.

Prednisone warning: High doses of corticosteroids raise risk of heart problems by six times

In the study, around 8,000 adults from a Rotterdam study in the Netherlands were followed and assessed for a decade. Subjects who were taking corticosteroids, like prednisone, were around four times more likely to show signs of irregular heartbeat or atrial fibrillation. Daily doses of 7.5 mg or higher raised the risk of these heart issues up to six times, while taking less than 7.5 mg reduced this to just a two times higher risk of atrial fibrillation.

Dose amount was key, rather than length of time the subjects took the drugs. It did not seem to matter whether the dose was oral, inhaled or injected.

High doses of prednisone and other corticosteroids are often prescribed to reduce the inflammation associated with conditions like asthma, arthritis and allergies. Higher doses assist in reducing the inflammation rapidly to speed relief of these conditions. However, the trade-off for fast relief seems to be atrial fibrillation and other heart issues.

Atrial fibrillation brings disturbing symptoms and complications

Atrial fibrillation and irregular heartbeat refers to the blood no longer being pumped through the body efficiently and effectively by the heart. The sensations experienced include heart fluttering, palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, and difficulty in exercising or performing physical activities.

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In more serious cases, it can also involve the pooling of the blood in the body. This in turn can lead to blood clots, heart failure and an increased risk of stroke. In fact, having atrial fibrillation is known to increase the risk of having a stroke five-fold.

If you must take corticosteroids: Take the smallest dose possible

Persons with arthritis often already have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease as well as stroke, heart failure and heart attack. Anyone with an inflammatory disease can potentially be at risk, especially if they are taking corticosteroids, like prednisone.

It’s possible that corticosteroids alter potassium flow within heart muscle. This in turn could affect the electrical activity in the heart and lead to irregular beating in the two upper chambers.  So, if you must take corticosteroids, use the smallest dose possible to reduce the risk of side effects – and definitely do not exceed 7.5 mg per dose – if you want to avoid the added risk of cardiovascular issues.

Editor’s note: Obviously, when dealing with inflammatory issues, we advise that you speak to a qualified, healthcare provider – experienced with the many natural ways to reduce inflammation and unwanted chronic pain issues.


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