How Alcohol Increases Your Risk of ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome’
Scientists have long been aware that heavy drinking increases the odds of heart failure. Although there are health risks, no one has pinned downed the trigger factor that leads an alcoholic to cardiac arrhythmias.
A new study from Sweden now suggests that moderate to heavy consumption of wine and liquor increases the risk for atrial fibrillation, a condition also known as ‘Holiday Heart Syndrome.’
What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat, is a quivering of the heart that causes chest pain, shortness of breath and increases the chances of a heart attack or stroke. Usually it occurs in periodic episodes, but atrial fibrillation may last for several days. Atrial fibrillation can occur among people who don’t drink as well, but it is more common in alcohol drinkers.
Details of the Study
In the 12-year-long study, Swedish researchers kept track of a group of 79,016 adults between the ages of 45 and 83. In the end they discovered 12,554 cases of atrial fibrillation out of this population. The results showed an increase in irregular heartbeat for moderate consumers of alcoholic beverages, which is considered to be one to three drinks per day.
Furthermore the risk of fibrillation increased by 8 percent with each alcoholic drink consumed. The people who drank the most were 50 percent more likely to develop an arrhythmia.
Interestingly enough the subjects that chose to drink beer, rather than wine or alcohol, did not seem to be at as high of a risk. There was no direct relationship found between binge drinking beer and atrial fibrillation.
Susanna C. Larsson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Unit of Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, was lead author of the study. She thinks the new findings about beer may have to do with the time of the week it is consumed.
According to Larsson, “It is likely that beer is consumed more regularly during the week, whereas wine and liquor is more often consumed during weekends only. Adverse effects of alcohol on atrial fibrillation risk may be less pronounced if alcohol consumption is spread out over the week compared with consumption of larger amounts of alcohol during a few days per week.”
The research was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
There is controversy amid health care professionals over whether light to moderate consumption of alcohol leads to atrial fibrillation. However most agree that moderate to heavy alcohol abuse is a leading cause of heart problems – no matter what you’re drinking.
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