University Of California Study Shows That Alcohol Consumption Raises Risk For Atrial Fibrillation And May Give Rise Ultimately To Heart Failure
A new study by researchers from the University of California-San Francisco has found that consumption of alcohol raises the risk for atrial fibrillation which may ultimately result in heart failure.
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(AF or A-fib) is an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) characterized by the rapid and irregular beating of the atrial chambers of the heart. It often begins as short periods of abnormal beating, which become longer or continuous over time. It may also start as other forms of arrhythmia such as atrial flutter that then transform into AF. Often episodes have no symptoms. Occasionally there may be heart palpitations, fainting, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, or chest pain. The disease is associated with an increased risk of heart failure, dementia, and stroke. It is sometimes described as a type of supraventricular tachycardia.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Annals of Internal Medicine. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.7326/M21-0228
The findings from the study provide the first evidence that alcohol consumption substantially increases the chance of the heart rhythm condition occurring within a few hours.
The study findings might run counter to a prevailing perception that alcohol can be "cardioprotective," say the study, suggesting that reducing or avoiding alcohol might help mitigate harmful effects.
Lead author and Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, University of California-San Francisco, Dr Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, told Thailand Medical News, “Importantly contrary to a common belief that atrial fibrillation is associated with heavy alcohol consumption, it appears that even one alcohol drink may be enough to increase the risk
Dr Marcus further added, "Our study findings show that the occurrence of atrial fibrillation might be neither random nor unpredictable. Instead, there may be identifiable and modifiable ways of preventing an acute heart arrhythmia episode."
AF or Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart arrhythmia seen clinically, but until now research has largely focused on risk factors for developing the disease and therapies to treat it, rather than factors that determine when and where an episode might occur. AF can lead to loss of quality of life, significant health care costs, stroke, and death.
Numerous large studies have shown that chronic alcohol consumption can be a predictor of the condition. However Dr Marcus and the rest of the study team have demonstrated even any alcohol consumption volumes is linked to heightened risks of a first diagnosis of atrial arrhythmias.
The study centered on 100 patients with documented AF who consumed at least one alcoholic drink a month. The patients were recruited from the general cardiology and cardiac electro
physiology outpatient clinics at University of California-San Francisco.
Individuals with a history of alcohol or substance use disorder were excluded, as were those with certain allergies, or who were changing treatments for their heart condition.
Every study participant wore an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor for approximately four weeks, pressing a button whenever they had a standard-size alcoholic drink. They were also all fitted with a continuously recording alcohol sensor. Blood tests reflecting alcohol consumption over the previous weeks were periodically administered. Participants consumed a median of one drink per day throughout the study period.
The study team found that an AF episode was associated with two-fold higher odds with one alcoholic drink and three-fold higher odds with two or more drinks within the preceding four hours. AF episodes were also associated with an increased blood alcohol concentration.
The study team does however note certain study limitations, including that patients might have forgotten to press their monitor buttons or that they minimized the number of button presses due to embarrassment, although these considerations would not have affected alcohol sensor readings. Additionally, the study was limited to those with established AF, not to the general population.
Dr Marcus added, "The effects seem to be fairly linear ie the more alcohol consumed, the higher the risk of an acute AF event. These observations mirror what has been reported by patients for decades, but this is the first objective, measurable evidence that a modifiable exposure may acutely influence the chance that an AF episode will occur."
The study team concluded, “Individual AF episodes were associated with higher odds of recent alcohol consumption, providing objective evidence that a modifiable behavior may influence the probability that a discrete AF event will occur.”
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