Daily drinkers more likely to have abnormal heart rhythm

January 20, 2011 in Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Daily drinkers more likely to have abnormal heart rhythm
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba Institute of Clinical Medicine in Japan are reporting that people who drink regularly, especially heavy drinkers, are more likely to suffer from atrial fibrillation (AF), a common heart-rhythm disturbance.

To investigate, researchers analyzed 14 studies and found that the heaviest drinkers were more likely to be diagnosed with AF than people who drank little to no alcohol.

The studies differed in how they defined "heavy" drinking. At a minimum it meant two or more drinks per day for men, and one or more per day for women.  In some studies, heavy drinkers downed at least six drinks per day.

When all the study results were combined, heavy drinkers were 51 percent more likely to suffer AF, than either non-drinkers or occasional drinkers.
Researchers also found evidence linking fairly moderate drinking to a higher AF risk, compared with abstinence.

Overall, the risk of AF crept up eight percent for every increase of 10 grams (about a third of an ounce) in study participants' daily alcohol intake.

Atrial fibrillation arises from a problem in the heart muscle's electrical activity resulting in an irregular heartbeat.  If AF becomes recurrent or permanent, it can raise their risk of heart failure and of blood clots that can travel to the brain and cause a stroke

Currently, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends Canadians limit themselves to one or two standard drinks a day, to a weekly maximum of nine for women and 14 for men.  They also warn that excessive alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure and increase the risk of obesity, some forms of heart disease and stroke.

These latest findings were reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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