Alcohol Abuse May Increase Risk of Heart Disease

Alcohol abuse may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction (MI) and congestive heart failure as much as other well-established risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity, according to a study published Jan. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Gregory M. Marcus, MD, FACC, and colleagues analyzed data from a database of all California residents ages 21 and older who received ambulatory surgery, emergency or inpatient medical care in California between 2005 and 2009. Approximately 268,000 patients had been diagnosed with alcohol abuse. The researchers found that after taking into account other risk factors, alcohol abuse was associated with a two-fold increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a 1.4-fold increased risk of MI and a 2.3-fold increased risk of congestive heart failure. These increased risks were similar in magnitude to other well-recognized modifiable risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

According to the researchers, ending alcohol abuse would result in over 73,000 fewer atrial fibrillation cases, 34,000 fewer MIs, and 91,000 fewer patients with congestive heart failure in the U.S.

“We found that even if you have no underlying risk factors, abuse of alcohol still increases the risk of these heart conditions,” Marcus said. “We were somewhat surprised to find those diagnosed with some form of alcohol abuse were at significantly higher risk of a heart attack. We hope this data will temper the enthusiasm for drinking in excess and will avoid any justification for excessive drinking because people think it will be good for their heart. These data pretty clearly prove the opposite.”

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

Keywords: Alcohol Drinking, Alcoholism, Ambulatory Surgical Procedures, Atrial Fibrillation, Diabetes Mellitus, Ethanol, Heart Diseases, Heart Failure, Hypertension, Inpatients, Myocardial Infarction, Obesity, Risk Factors, Smoking

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