NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Yoga, already proven to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, can cut in half the risk of a common and potentially dangerous irregular heartbeat, according to a U.S. study released on Saturday. The small study was the first to examine the benefits of yoga on atrial fibrillation - a problem that is a leading cause of stroke and is most common in the elderly. In addition to halving the episodes of atrial fibrillation, the study found that yoga also reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression related to the condition. These findings are important because many of the current conventional treatment strategies for atrial fibrillation include invasive procedures or medications with undesirable side effects, said Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, an associate professor with the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas, who led the study. He presented his findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology being held in New Orleans. The study involved 49 patients with the heart rhythm disorder who had no physical limitations and no prior experience with yoga.