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Moderate drinking may increase risk of atrial fibrillation or irregular heartbeat

(RxWiki News) A meta-analysis of 14 studies has led researchers to believe that even moderate alcohol consumption can contribute to atrial fibrillation, or irregular heart beat.

Members of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research find that even moderate drinking can lead to "Holiday Heart Syndrome" in which drinking contributes to cardiac arrhythmias in otherwise healthy individuals. The abnormal heart rhythms generally cease when drinking does.

The Forum cited a recent Danish study examining 22,528 men and 25,421 women over a six-year period that found a modest increase in atrial fibrillation in men who have more than two drinks per day, but no association between atrial fibrillation and drinking in women.

A limitation of the meta-analysis included different definitions in the studies as to what constitutes heavy drinking (six or more drinks per day according to one study and over two drinks per day according to another).

It is widely recognized binge drinking is associated with cardiac arrthymias and atrial fibrillation in particular.

The meta-analysis suggests that even moderate drinking may be associated with the condition.

Because irregular heartbeats can cause blood to clot, atrial fibrillation patients have a five-fold increase in the risk of stroke, according to the Stop Afib organization.

Review Date: 
February 16, 2011