The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve in the body. Of all cranial nerves, this nerve is the longest and most complex. It runs from the brain through the face and thorax down to the abdomen. Vagus nerve has sensory and motor functions. In this post, we are going to discuss the activity of the vagus nerve in atrial fibrillation (AFib) and its importance. Scroll down to learn all you need to know about vagus nerve AFiB.
Vagus Nerve and AFiB
The vagus nerve mediates the parasympathetic innervation of the heart. After all, the vagus nerve represents the primary component of the parasympathetic nervous system. Which helps regulate various bodily functions ranging from mood control to immune response, digestion, and heart rate.
In other words, the 10th cranial nerve (also known as the Wanderer) acts to lower the heart rate.
It does so by stimulating muscles in the heart, which is one of several motor functions of the vagus nerve.
The most significant function the vagus nerve is afferent, bringing information of the inner organs such as heart, gut, liver, and lungs to the brain.
The parasympathetic innervation dilates blood vessels and helps lower the heart rate. While sympathetic innervation constricts blood vessels and increases heart rate. Basically, stimulation of the vagus nerve, as a part of the parasympathetic nervous system, could help balance heart rate. Thereby aid the management of atrial fibrillation.
In fact, stimulation of the vagus nerve has been investigated as a therapeutic approach for the management of various diseases. Such as rheumatoid arthritis, treatment-resistant epilepsy, asthma, and Crohn’s disease. The vagus nerve’s innervation of the heart, its stimulation could be a potential therapeutic approach toward the management of cardiovascular diseases, studies show.
How is AFiB Connected to the Vagus Nerve?
As seen above, the stimulation of the vagus nerve could aid the management of cardiovascular conditions and other diseases. But it’s impossible not to wonder what’s behind vagus nerve AFiB connection. How are these two things relate in the first place?
Although atrial fibrillation is a cardiac disease, it could be triggered by extracardiac abnormalities that impair heart function. This has been confirmed in animal studies, which involved stimulation of the left cervical vagal nerve.
In humans, atrial fibrillation was triggered by implantation of the vagus nerve stimulator in patients with partial seizures refractory to medical treatment. Scientists explain that patients with suspected vagus nerve AFiB should be investigated for abnormalities in their larynx, tongue, or tensor veli palatini. These particular evaluations could be of immense therapeutic relevance because the treatment of the triggering abnormality could reduce or abolish atrial fibrillation. The importance of differentiating and describing vagal and adrenergic AFiB is massive. Also, it could help patients get the proper care they need to manage this condition with greater success.
While excessive stimulation of the vagus nerve could trigger atrial fibrillation, it is generally regarded as a potential therapeutic approach toward the management of this cardiovascular problem.
Everything in our body is connected, and the nerve that goes from your brain down to the abdomen is not an exception. Its function and factors affecting it could also play a role in triggering a faster heart rate associated with AFib.
What Does All This Mean to You?
The connection between the vagus nerve and atrial fibrillation deserves thorough research. At this point, the quantity of studies is insufficient for such an important subject. The fact that overstimulation of the vagus nerve could trigger AFiB, but also that stimulation of this cranial nerve can aid the management of arrhythmia and other cardiovascular diseases.
If you have AFiB, you may want to consider consulting your doctor about this subject. Your doctor may carry out some tests to investigate the functionality of the vagus nerve and whether it could aggravate your condition. If so, stimulation could help dilate blood vessels, normalize blood flow, and improve heart rate. After all, an unusual heart rate is one of the multiple symptoms of damage to the vagus nerve. This only confirms the connection between this nerve and heart rhythm. The easy way how you can track your heart health changes to act most appropriately in time is an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring with the help of your mobile device. With it, you can monitor your heart health anytime & anywhere. Share your results with the doctor and access your reports and trends on your smartphone.
Vagus Nerve Stimulation
The process of vagus nerve stimulation includes placing a device in the body that relies on electric impulses to stimulate the nerve. The doctor usually places this device under the skin of the chest. A wire connects the device with the vagus nerve.
Upon the activation, the device sends signals through the vagus nerve straight to the brainstem from where the information is sent to the brain.
It’s useful to mention that sometimes vagus nerve overeats due to triggers. Such as exposure to extreme heat, fear of bodily harm, standing for a long time, and others.
The vagus nerve is the longest and most complicated of all twelve cranial nerves in the body. Although it performs important functions, most of us don’t know enough about this nerve. Evidence shows it can influence heart function, especially heart rate. Stimulation of the vagus nerve could aid the management of cardiovascular diseases, atrial fibrillation being one of them. It’s important to carry out further research on this subject and thoroughly describe vagal AFiB. Which could help people get much-needed treatment for their condition.