Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Atrial Fibrillation: A Meta-Analysis

Study Questions:

Does alcohol consumption increase the probability of developing atrial fibrillation (AF)?


This was a meta-analysis of 14 cohort (n = 9) or case-control (n = 5) studies that examined the relationship between alcohol intake and AF. Heavy alcohol intake was defined as ≥2 drinks/day for men and ≥1 drink/day for women.


The 14 studies included 130,820 participants. There was a significant linear relationship between alcohol intake and AF risk. Compared to the lowest category of alcohol intake, heavy drinking was associated with a 51% greater probability of AF. The incremental increase in the relative AF risk was 8% per 10 grams of alcohol intake/day.


There is a linear relationship between daily alcohol consumption and the probability of developing AF.


A limitation of the study is that it provides no data on the relationship between the duration of alcohol intake and AF risk. In any event, alcohol may increase the risk of AF by one or more of the following mechanisms: increase in adrenergic tone, impairment of vagal tone, shortening of atrial refractoriness, slowing of intra-atrial conduction, and/or direct effects on myocytes resulting in dilated cardiomyopathy.

Clinical Topics: Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathies

Keywords: Risk, Heart Atria, Ethanol, Cardiomyopathy, Dilated

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