button on their ECG. They also used fingerstick blood tests to confirm their drinking.
During the study, 56 participants had at least one episode of atrial fibrillation. The episodes were associated with two-fold higher odds of one alcohol drink and three-fold higher odds of two drinks in the four hours before.
What is A-fib?
Sometimes referred to as the “holiday heart syndrome” because of its connection to weekend and holiday drinking, atrial fibrillation is quivering or irregular heartbeat that affects at least 2.7 million people in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
It can lead to blood clots, strokes, heart failure and other heart complications, according to the AHA. The condition could affect 12 million people by 2050, the study estimates.
This study was limited to only those who already had a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, so by definition, they are at the highest risk of experiencing an episode, Marcus says.
“It does suggest that minimizing, if not completely abstaining from alcohol, is probably a wise choice to try and minimize the risk of a recurrent atrial fibrillation episode” for these patients, Marcus adds.
Whether that also applies to those who are at high risk for atrial fibrillation but don’t have a diagnosis is unclear. This could vary from person to person.
“One finding that is very clear from this study and others is that heavy drinking is clearly harmful,” Marcus notes. “We were unable to identify a clear threshold of drinking that heightened a-fib risk. It appeared that the more alcohol that was consumed, the more that risk rose. So, for the general population, I think the conservative interpretation is to say, this is yet more evidence that one should avoid heavy drinking.”
Exactly how alcohol impacts the electrical properties of the