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Study links moderate drinking to abnormal heart rhythm

Posted Oct 04 2012 12:00am
Guest Post by Health News Watch

Heart patients who drink moderately are have been found to have increased risks of suffering from a common heart rhythm problem, says a new study, highlighting that older adults with heart disease or advanced diabetes were more apt to develop atrial fibrillation than peers who drank less.

According to cardiology Los Angeles experts, the study is not the first to link moderate drinking to the heart arrhythmia, known as AF, a quivering or irregular heartbeat that affects about 2.7 million people in the United States, and is a risk factor for stroke.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 30,000 people, aged 55 and older, in 40 countries who had a history of cardiovascular disease or advanced diabetes with organ damage. Moderate to high alcohol intake was associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. And for moderate drinkers, the effect of binge drinking was similar to that of habitual heavy drinking, according to the study, which was published Oct. 1 in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

During a nearly five-year follow-up, about 2,100 new cases of atrial fibrillation were diagnosed in the study participants. The incidence rate per 1,000 "person-years" was 14.5 among light drinkers (up to one drink per week), 17.3 among moderate drinkers and 20.8 among heavy drinkers (more than two drinks a day for women and more than three per day for men).

Most shockingly, nearly 79 percent of binge drinkers were in the moderate alcohol-consumption group. Where the research becomes complicated or unclear is with moderate drinking.

In general, it's thought that having one or two drinks per day is protective against coronary heart disease - where cholesterol-containing "plaque" builds up in the arteries. But modest drinking hasn't been linked to a decreased risk of AF - and the new findings suggest that when people already have heart issues, moderate drinking is actually tied to more AF cases.

About 2.7 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). But coronary heart disease, the nation's number-one killer, is a much more common cause of death.

Experts say that if you're already a moderate drinker (up to one drink a day for women, and two for men), it's probably okay to keep it up. For optimal heart health, it is recommended to make regular visits to a cardiologist near you. Anyone in the Los Angeles area should trust Epic Cardiology with all their heart health needs.
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