New research from UC San Francisco has shed a new light on how alcohol affects heart health. During the upcoming holiday season, more people enjoy alcoholic drinks compared to the rest of the year, but this new study cautions those who are at risk of heart rhythm conditions.
The study published in JAMA Cardiology tested possible triggers of a common heart condition, atrial fibrillation (AF), including caffeine intake, lack of sleep, and sleeping on the left side, and found that only alcohol use was consistently associated with more episodes of heart arrhythmia.
Most of the things that participants thought would be related to their AF were not. Researchers were surprised to find that those who had that highest alcohol consumption most consistently exhibited heightened risks of atrial fibrillation.
Approximately 450 people participated in this study and used a mobile electrocardiogram recording device along with a phone app to log potential triggers such as drinking alcohol and caffeine, sleeping on the left side, not getting enough sleep, poor diet, eating a large meal, a cold drink, exercising, or anything else they thought was relevant to their AF.
Most participants were most likely to select caffeine as a trigger, but there was no association with AF. Other recent studies have similarly failed to demonstrate a relationship between caffeine, heart health, and arrhythmias.
Alcohol As the Trigger
This new study demonstrates that consumption of alcohol is the only trigger that was consistently linked to significantly more self-reported AF episodes. Researchers concluded, “This completely remote, siteless, mobile app-based study will hopefully pave the way for many investigators and patients to conduct similar personalized experiences that can provide clinically relevant information specific to the individual.”
More studies are proving that individualized treatments are much more effective for many types of illness and disease than a one size fits all treatment. Atrial fibrillation contributes to more than 150,000 deaths in the United States each year, and as the death rate rises, it is vital to understand the triggers and how to avoid the symptoms.