Individuals with atrial fibrillation (heart rhythm disorder) who drink alcohol are more likely to experience stroke, compared to those who don’t drink. Study leader Dr. Faris Al-Khalili said, “Doctors should ask their [atrial fibrillation] patients about alcohol use and advise patients to cut down if they are drinking more than is recommended.”
The study included over 250,000 Swedish adults with atrial fibrillation, a known risk factor for stroke.
During the follow-up period of five years, the researchers uncovered two risk factors associated with a higher risk of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients: age and alcohol-related hospitalization.
Dr. Al-Khalili added, “Even though these patients are classified as low-risk, the incidence of ischemic stroke in our study population is neither negligible nor ignorable, and it carries a relatively high mortality. Our study found that alcohol is an independent risk factor for stroke in patients with [atrial fibrillation].”
How this relationship works is still unclear. The study doesn’t prove causality as it was observational.
“Using alcohol-related hospitalization as a proxy for alcohol abuse likely underestimates the extent of the problem, and does not allow grading of the amount of alcohol consumed,” added Dr. Al-Khalili.
The findings are still considered preliminary, until they are peer reviewed.