Fast Five With Peter Kistler

Peter Kistler

Professor Peter Kistler is an electrophysiologist and cardiologist, and a world leader in atrial fibrillation research. This week is World Heart Rhythm Week, so we’ve gone Fast Five with Peter (whose heart regularly skips a beat when he watches his beloved Hawks) to find out what makes him tick and learn more about his intriguing new research study.

This week is World Heart Rhythm Week, why do about half a million Australians have hearts that beat irregularly and how does it present?

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most important cause of an irregular heartbeat. AF is associated with ageing as well as obesity and regular alcohol consumption, which are both common in the Australian community.

Symptoms of AF may include fatigue, breathlessness, palpitations, irritability, poor concentration, or there may be no symptoms at all. AF may also be picked up by feeling your pulse and noting an irregularity.

You’re an international leader in cardiac arrhythmia, are there any common misconceptions about atrial fibrillation?

Probably the most common misconception is that coffee causes AF. Large population studies actually show that regular coffee drinkers have less AF. Exercise is also a relatively unusual trigger for AF, which is far more common when someone is at rest or when asleep!

You and your team have just opened recruitment for a study that’s looking at whether yoga can reduce the symptoms and occurrence of atrial fibrillation. What’s the thinking behind that research, and can I join the study?

Yoga is a form of exercise combined with mindfulness, breathing techniques, flexibility and balance, which can be effective in lowering heart rate and blood pressure as well as reducing stress and having positive effects on the autonomic nervous system (flight fright response). All of these factors may contribute to a reduction in AF. This is currently only a theory, so we are performing the world’s first randomised trial looking at the impact of yoga in heart disease versus regular exercise.

To participate, you must have atrial fibrillation — find out more about your eligibility.

You’ve presented your atrial fibrillation work at conferences all over the world, which place was the most memorable and why?

Presenting at a meeting in Seoul was particularly memorable. The organisers were keen to create a more relaxed vibe so we were all issued with sneakers, no suits and people were sitting around in beanbags! Perhaps I should have suggested some yoga too!

When you’re not working as a cardiologist and electrophysiologist, how would we find you spending your time?

I like spending time with my family, friends and our mini Schnauzer, as well as exercising, supporting the Hawks, and practising yoga.

Learn more about Peter’s yoga trial on Channel 7’s House of Wellness on Friday 14 June at 2pm or Sunday 16 June at midday.

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