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The Estimated Risk of Atrial Fibrillation Related to Alcohol Consumption

The risk of acute heavy alcohol intake on the development of atrial fibrillation (AF), aka ‘holiday heart syndrome’, has been well-described.  However, whether chronic alcohol intake is also associated with increased risk of AF, or might even be protective as has been observed with other cardiac conditions, is more uncertain.  A number of studies, from basic science to large cohort studies have been performed to analyze the association between alcohol and AF.  Basic-level studies have found that alcohol causes changes in tissue electrophysiology, ion channels, and circulating hormones, which might promote development and maintenance of AF.  Clinical studies have generally shown groups with the highest regular intake of alcohol to be at increased risk, with no association with more moderate use.  However, these studies have not always accounted for other AF risk factors, been inconsistent in the assessment and validation of the quantity of alcohol consumed across populations, and been unable to completely separate drinking patterns from overall health of participants.  As a result, solid conclusions about a threshold level for ‘safe’ chronic alcohol intake cannot be made with regard to AF risk, but it appears to be safe within currently recommended limits of 1 drink daily for women and 2 for men.  In this review, we discuss these findings, limitations, and conclusions.

Credits: Michael A. Rosenberg; MD and Kenneth J. Mukamal, MD, MPH

Biosense Webster
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Introduction to AFib
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