Regular, Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Lead to AFib

Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol on a regular basis may lead to a higher risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib), according to a review paper published Dec. 5 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Aleksandr Voskoboinik, MBBS, et al., reviewed three large meta-analyses – including a study that followed nearly 900,000 people for 12 years and reported an 8 percent increase in the risk of AFib for every alcoholic drink per day consumed.

According to the authors, more than 100 previous studies have shown that a light to moderate intake of alcohol – up to seven standard drinks per week for women and 14 standard drinks per week for men – can actually be good for some people, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, more specifically coronary artery disease. However, the authors found that this is not the case when it comes to an irregular heartbeat, and note that many people who are consuming one to two glasses of alcohol per day may not realize they are putting themselves at risk for AFib.

The authors conclude that moving forward, more research is needed to determine the specific causes responsible for the relationship between alcohol and AFib. Researchers believe they may include direct toxicity and alcohol’s contribution to obesity, sleep disordered breathing and hypertension. Further, more research is also needed to determine whether avoiding alcohol completely is required for patients who have irregular heartbeats.

“People who continue to consume alcohol at moderate rates may also notice their irregular heartbeats become more frequent,” explains Peter M. Kistler, MBBS, PhD, an author of the study. “This is concerning, because it can lead to serious issues, such as heart failure and stroke. So even though we do not have randomized data that tells us what a ‘safe’ amount is to consume, people with an irregular heartbeat should probably drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day with two alcohol free days a week.”

Clinical Topics: Arrhythmias and Clinical EP, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathies, Prevention, Atrial Fibrillation/Supraventricular Arrhythmias, Acute Heart Failure, Hypertension, Sleep Apnea

Keywords: Alcohol Drinking, Alcoholic Beverages, Atrial Fibrillation, Cardiovascular Diseases, Coronary Artery Disease, Ethanol, Heart Failure, Hypertension, Obesity, Research Personnel, Sleep Apnea Syndromes, Stroke


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