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Atrial Fibrillation Health Center

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Vagal Maneuvers for a Fast Heart Rate - Topic Overview

Vagal maneuvers are used to try to slow an episode of fast heart rate. These simple maneuvers stimulate the vagus nerve, sometimes resulting in slowed conduction of electrical impulses through the atrioventricular (AV) node of the heart. Be sure to talk to your doctor before trying these.

Vagal maneuvers that you can try to slow your fast heart rate include:

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Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, happens when your normal heartbeat or rhythm is thrown off. Yes, it can be dangerous. Your heart may not be able to pump enough blood. On the other hand, millions of people with long-lasting AFib live quite well, says Gordon F. Tomaselli, MD, chief of the division of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "It's very possible to live a normal life for many years." So let's clear up those ideas that may be limiting you when they don't...

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  • Gagging.
  • Holding your breath and bearing down (Valsalva maneuver).
  • Immersing your face in ice-cold water (diving reflex).
  • Coughing.

Be sure to have your doctor show you how to do these procedures correctly.

In addition to these, your doctor may sometimes try another vagal maneuver (called carotid sinus massage) in the emergency room to help slow your heart rate. This technique should only be performed by a doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: 2/, 014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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