The vast majority of people don’t understand the relationship between consuming alcohol and Atrial Fibrillation (AFib.) Atrial Fibrillation, often called AFib, is the most common type of heart arrhythmia. It causes your heart to beat irregularly, slower, or faster than your body needs it to.
Whether or not you have AFib, there are several other choices we make and activities we partake in that also affect our heart and circulatory system in general. Some of those activities, such as light to moderate exercise, strengthen the heart muscles while other activities, such as drinking alcohol, can cause your heart health to suffer.
In this article, Dr. Nazeri addresses some common topics about how drinking alcohol affects Atrial Fibrillation (AFib), in addition to providing facts to help you make better choices for your heart health.
Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Developing AFib
If you do not currently have AFib but know someone who does, you might want to know whether your current alcohol consumption patterns may increase your risk of developing AFib.
A recent systematic review of studies found the following:
- High levels of alcohol intake (3 drinks a day) are associated with an increased risk of developing AFib.
- Moderate levels of alcohol intake (2 drinks a day) are associated with a heightened risk of developing AFib in males but not females. However, other systematic reviews note that while the risk for females who drink 2 drinks a day is lower than for men, the risk for developing AFib does increase.
- Low levels of alcohol intake (up to 1 drink a day) showed no association with AFib development.
In short, limiting alcohol intake to up to 1 drink a day will lower your risk of developing AFib. However, research indicates that drinking less alcohol is best when concerning AFib risk, as alcohol may interact with other factors contributing to AFib development.
Furthermore, it is vital to remember moderate to high alcohol consumption levels are also associated with many other acute and chronic health conditions, including coronary heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases.
Drinking Alcohol if You Have AFib
Regularly drinking alcohol has a direct effect on how your heart functions. If you currently have AFib, drinking alcohol may exacerbate the symptoms of the condition. Additionally, depending on the amount of alcohol you are drinking, it could worsen the condition.
Continuing to drink alcohol after being diagnosed with AFib can result in the following:
- Higher rates of progression from paroxysmal (occasional) AFib to persistent (continual) AFib
- Increased risk of recurrent AFib
- Higher risk of death
- Increased risk of thromboembolism (blockage of a blood vessel by a blood clot)
Even though light-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lower risk of new coronary artery disease, angina, heart attacks, and other heart-related diseases in currently healthy people, these results cannot extend to people with AFib.
Therefore, your cardiologist will likely recommend that you abstain from alcohol entirely if you have AFib.
Alcohol and Reduction in AFib Symptoms
A randomized trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the effects of abstaining from alcohol on the occurrence of arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeat, in AFib patients.
The trial assigned 140 patients randomly into two groups with one group having to abstain from alcohol entirely, and the other received no instructions to abstain from alcohol. As a result, the researchers observed that the abstinence group had a more extended period before the recurrence of atrial fibrillation and had significantly less atrial fibrillation burden.
In other words, people who abstain from alcohol after an AFib diagnosis will have a regular heartbeat for more time when compared to people who didn’t modify their drinking habits.
Alcohol consumption is a common and often accepted part of many cultures, including Western culture. In fact, low to moderate consumption of wine and beer is popularly associated with health benefits. However, it is essential to note that alcohol is by no means “good” for you. However, people with AFib, or other forms of heart disease, cannot consider they too can have such benefits from light alcohol consumption.
To sum up, the relationship between consuming Alcohol and Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is real and can increase the risk of developing AFib or other heart conditions. Therefore, limiting alcohol consumption to the occasional drink or abstaining altogether is beneficial for your health and well-being and may reduce your risk of developing AFib. So, if you currently have AFib, your physician specialist will likely recommend that you abstain from alcohol to avoid more damage to your circulatory system.
In conclusion, let your physician know if you would like support to abstain from alcohol consumption.
About Dr. Nazeri
Dr. Nazeri offers a TeleHealth program to easily set up a (video visit) consultation to discuss any concerns you may have about developing Atrial Fibrillation (AFib.) Lastly, for more information about cardiac arrhythmia monitoring and atrial fibrillation, please call us at 713-909-3166 or visit our website at www.MobitzHeart.com
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