Frequent Drinking Higher Risk for Atrial Fibrillation Than Binge Drinking

Alcohol studies continue to point to its health risks, even as we learn that sometimes it might provide some benefits (as in the case of red wine, for example).  But in terms of the health risks of alcohol, most studies tend to look solely at the amount of alcohool consumed and not necessarily how often. 

Indeed, the latest study is a meta-analysis of existing study results that suggests these is actually a direct link between binge drinking and risk for atrial fibrillation.  

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder in the world. On its own it is problematic but it also increases the risk for stroke five-fold.  Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include palpitations, irregular or rapid pulse, tiredness, dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Study author Dr. Jon-Il Choi, of the Korea University College of Medicine and Korea University Anam Hospital in Seoul, Republic of Korea, comments, “Recommendations about alcohol consumption have focused on reducing the absolute amount rather than the frequency.”

Effectively, the existing research simply identified that for every 12g of alcohol consumed (about one serving) per week, risk for atrial fibrillation increased by 8 percent.  In addition, the researchers found a 2 percent increase in risk for new-onset atrial fibrillation for every 1 gram of alcohol consumed per week.  When compared against mild drinkers and those who have zero, moderate, or high consumption trends were at elevated risks between 8.6 percent and 21.5 percent. 

Choi explains that atrial fibrillation, as a disease, has several dramatic complications that can significantly compromise quality of life.  Thus, preventing atrial fibrillation, alone, should be the first priority.  He notes that controlling/reducing alcohol consumption is perhaps the most easily modifiable risk factor.  Accordingly, he advises reduction in not just the frequency of alcohol consumed but also the amount. 

At the end of the day, then, Choi concludes, “Our study suggests that drinking less often may also be important to protect against atrial fibrillation. The number of drinking sessions was related to atrial fibrillation onset regardless of age and sex. Repeated episodes of atrial fibrillation triggered by alcohol may lead to overt disease. In addition, drinking can provoke sleep disturbance which is a known risk factor for atrial fibrillation.”