The risk of atrial fibrillation could be reduced by cutting out alcohol consumption. This is according to new research published in the European Heartbeat Journal, which found evidence to support the idea that just one alcoholic drink a day was linked to a 16% increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
It has been well documented that people who drink a lot of alcohol regularly are at increased risk of developing heart failure. Although heart failure can increase atrial fibrillation incidence, no research has ever been conducted on the impact of drinking alcohol on the condition.
The study included analyzing data from 107,845 people in five community-based studies in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Italy. 100,092 of the individuals did not have atrial fibrillation when they enrolled. All participants were required to complete medical examinations at the time they joined the study and provide information on their medical histories, lifestyle choices, education, and employment.
The increase in atrial fibrillation incidence, a condition where the heart beats in an abnormal rhythm, was found over a 14-year follow-up period. In addition to the 16% increased risk of atrial fibrillation for those who consumed one alcoholic drink per day, researchers also found that the risk increased with the amount consumed. Those who indulged in two drinks per day were associated with a 28% increased risk, and this went up to 47% for those who consumed more than four.
The associations between alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation risk were similar for all types of alcoholic drinks and for men and women.
Study author Prof. Schnabel said: “To our knowledge, this is the largest study on alcohol consumption and long-term incidence of atrial fibrillation in the community. Previous studies have not had enough power to examine this question, although they have been able to show a relationship between alcohol intake and other heart and blood vessel problems, such as heart attack and heart failure. In our study, we can now demonstrate that even very low regular alcohol consumption may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.”
Can Alcohol Protect the Heart?
In the past, some studies had suggested that individuals who consumed a modest amount of alcohol could help to protect the heart. They found evidence of such by comparing modest drinkers with people who did drink at all.
These findings are important to add to the previous research on the benefits and risks of alcohol consumption. Researchers believe that the suggestion of ‘one glass of wine a day’ to protect the heart should no longer be suggested without balancing the risks and possible benefits for all heart diseases.
This study helps to outline the importance of limiting alcohol consumption overall. Although the previous studies had shown that one glass of wine a day could help to protect the heart, it may not be true for those who at a higher risk for atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, or other conditions. Be sure to check with your doctor for your risk factors to know the healthiest options for you to follow.