Atrial Fibrillation and Alcohol Consumption

Man concerned about abnormal heart beat rhythmThe consumption of alcohol can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation for people with cardiovascular disease, including those who have suffered a stroke or have been diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes, or coronary heart disease.  These are the latest results which have been coming in from two large clinical studies that were recently conducted.

Earlier clinical trials showed that heavy drinkers appeared to have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, and now these latest studies have confirmed that there is a link between the patients who already have cardiovascular disease and drinking.

Choosing Participants for these Latest Clinical Studies

The participants that had been selected for this new atrial fibrillation clinical study were all inflicted with some form of cardiovascular disease at some time in their lives. Among their participants, medical researchers found that even a moderate level of alcohol consumption would result in an increased risk of atrial fibrillation compared to those who did not drink at all.

Surprisingly though, the really interesting discovery made in this clinical study came during the follow-up. The research team found that the actual risk of death was lower for the participants who drank moderately (it was 12.5%) than those participants who did not drink at all. Not including the participants who were classified as heavy drinkers, the moderate drinkers had about a 13% higher chance of suffering from atrial fibrillation than the participants who didn’t drink.

Earlier Research on Atrial Fibrillation

Model showing effects of atrial fibrillation on human heartIn 2006, a few different clinical studies had reported that moderate consumption of alcohol could actual lower an individual’s risk of death and provide other health benefits. Now, even though these trials had followed protocol correctly, some scientists were still a little puzzled over two aspects of the research. One problem was that the spectrum of drinkers considered to be in the moderate range was way too broad (something like 1 drink every week to 21 drinks per week for men).

Many felt that the study would have been better served by setting a more reasonable limit on what would have been considered moderate drinking. In fact, countries like the United States and Australia have defined moderate drinking as having 14 drinks per week maximum for men and 7 per week for women.

The other concern that some people had was that there could have been a potential bias occurring in the estimates obtained from the clinical trials, or otherwise known as an index event bias. Looking at the report, it would be reasonable to assume that some of the participants could have developed cardiovascular disease as a result of alcohol consumption before they were ever signed up for the study. It can be quite difficult to accurately judge the effects of alcohol after a cardiovascular issue has already occurred, especially when there is a link to atrial fibrillation.

Moderate Drinkers who Still Developed CVD

Now, due to the fact that moderate consumption of alcohol was believed to lower an individual’s risk of developing diabetes or cardiovascular disease, the researchers had to assume that the participants who had developed one of these conditions, despite being moderate drinkers, possessed some other risk factor for disease. By taking this stance, they also assumed that this risk factor was able to cancel out any potential benefits that their participants had received from alcohol consumption.

Without adjusting these risk factors, there was a risk that the outcomes of the participants’ cardiovascular health could be altered, such as the development of atrial fibrillation.

AF Reminder

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) has been the primary focus for a number of clinical trials over the years. As a cardiac arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation is often labeled as part of the “holiday heart” condition which can pay a visit to some people after a stretch of unusually heavy alcohol consumption or otherwise known as binge drinking.

At the moment, researchers are still a little unclear on the atrial fibrillation risk that is associated with moderate drinking. It is understandable, as so many people vary in how often they drink and when. This can make finding that effective median range a little more difficult. To be sure, there is still plenty of research to be conducted on atrial fibrillation and alcohol consumption, before anyone is truly positive of the effects.



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