Drinking even a small amount of alcohol can increase a person’s risk of atrial fibrillation (AFib), according to new research published in European Heart Journal.
Tracking data from more than 107,000 patients, researchers found that drinking just one alcoholic drink per day—a single beer or a glass of wine, for instance—is associated with a 16% increase in a person’s AFib risk.
Heavy alcohol consumption has long been linked to a greater risk of developing heart failure, which can then lead to AFib—but this newest study indicates that the relationship between alcohol and AFib is more complex than researchers previously believed.
“To our knowledge, this is the largest study on alcohol consumption and long-term incidence of AFib in the community,” lead author Renate B. Schnabel, MD, MSc, a cardiologist at the University Heart and Vascular Center, Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany, said in a statement. “Previous studies have not had enough power to examine this question, although they have been able to show a relationship between alcohol intake and other heart and blood vessel problems, such as heart attack and heart failure. In our study, we can now demonstrate that even very low regular alcohol consumption may increase the risk of AFib.”
Schnabel et al. also noted that, over the years, drinking a small amount of alcohol has regularly been seen as a healthy move that can benefit a person’s heart. Should that still be considered a blanket recommendation moving forward?
“These findings are important as the regular consumption of alcohol, the ‘one glass of wine a day’ to protect the heart, as is often recommended for instance in the lay press, should probably no longer be suggested without balancing risks and possible benefits for all heart and blood vessel diseases, including AFib,” he said in the same statement.
The full study can be read here.