Alcohol Consumption and Atrial Fibrillation
According to new findings, alcohol is one of the risk factors for atrial fibrillation. The link between alcohol and heart palpitations was actually established in 1978 when ‘holiday heart syndrome’ was described. This syndrome was described in those who drank alcohol in excess, especially during winter. Now, researchers have made several findings concerning the effects of alcohol on the cardiac function following a study conducted between 2004 and 2011.
The fact that alcohol abuse causes arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy is not something completely new in cardiology. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is caused on the one hand by toxic alcohol aggression of the myocardium, and on the other hand, to thiamine deficiency, namely vitamin B1 (beri beri like effect). It was once called beer drinkers disease because it occurred mainly in chronic beer drinkers. Symptoms of cardiac disease, besides dyspnea, are palpitations that are usually announcing the installation of atrial fibrillation. Although the mechanism is not completely understood, there is an impaired electrical activity leading to atrial fibrillation installation. Alcoholic cardiomyopathy is a dilated cardiomyopathy ( the heart muscle is dilated and the systolic function is altered).
Now, what UCSF researchers found was that those who drink alcohol have a 4.5 times higher risk to develop atrial fibrillation than those who do not consume alcohol. The findings are available thanks to a study conducted between September 2004 to March 2011, on a sample of 233 patients. Of the patients surveyed, 133 reported paroxysmal atrial fibrillation or arrhythmia, irregular alcohol consumption, and 90 said they had supraventricular tachycardia with no episodes of atrial fibrillation. The senior author Gregory Marcus, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the UCSF Division of Cardiology, says there is no connection between age and race of patients and episodes of atrial fibrillation. He also stated that one of the limitations of the study was the small sample of patients. The discovery will be published in the August 1 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.
Alcohol has only negative effects on the heart, as shown in some studies. It was found that certain substances in wine such as resveratrol, which is an antioxidant, has protective effect on vessels. Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory effects and reduces blood sugar, so decreases the risk of atherosclerosis. Although discussions on the effects of alcohol are somewhat controversial, excess consumption of alcohol certainly has harmful effects on the body. In addition, as Marcus says, some people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol : “‘The clinical evidence suggests that some people are susceptible and other people aren’t, but if they know that they’re susceptible they should avoid alcohol,” he said.