Moderate alcohol use linked to heart chamber damage and atrial fibrillation, finds study

Moderate alcohol use linked to heart chamber damage and atrial fibrillation, finds study

It is time to move on from the old school of thought, which has been singing praises for the cardiovascular benefits of moderate drinking. Researchers from the University of California have come up with some observations pertaining to alcohol use, condemning its consumption in any quantity.

According to the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA) in September 2016, chronic alcohol consumption may be associated with the enlargement of left atria and subsequent atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition characterized by a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), which may lead to heart failure, blood clots, stroke and other heart-related complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 2.7 million Americans have AF and the numbers are likely to increase with old age, affecting more women than men.

Why is atrial fibrillation dangerous?

A normal heart contracts and relaxes to produce a regular beat. However, in atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly thereby, affecting the blood flow into the ventricles. Irregular beating increases the risk of clot formation, which if enters the bloodstream and blocks the artery leading to the brain, can cause a stroke.

Heart arrhythmia or irregular beating has been reported in about 15-20 percent of people with strokes by the American Heart Association. Despite the fact that untreated fibrillation can double the risk of heart-related deaths and increase the risk of stroke by five times, many patients do not consider it a serious condition.

Alcohol increases risk of AF

Many previous studies have suggested an association between acute alcohol consumption and development of AF. Chronic alcohol consumption with two or more drinks per day is linked to up to 30 percent higher risk of AF.

A previous longitudinal study of twelve years conducted by researchers in Sweden with 79,016 adults reported association between moderate alcohol consumption of wine and hard liquor and AF. Another study established a dose-response relationship between alcohol consumption and AF.

The findings of the present study, “Alcohol Consumption, Left Atrial Diameter, and Atrial Fibrillation”, reveal that although moderate alcohol consumption is considered to reduce the risk of heart attack but at the same time, it can cause pathological atrial structural change that elevates the risk of AF, outweighing the possible benefits associated with moderate drinking.

Gregory Marcus, cardiologist and electrophysiologist at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) specializing in the treatment of arrhythmias, and senior author of the study said, “Alcohol’s abilities to protect and harm the heart likely operate through different mechanisms and vary from person to person.” Gregory’s efforts are directed in the direction of informing people that heart disease does not mean only heart attack. People who continue to drink believing that it is good for health need to understand that there are various forms of heart disease and alcohol in any quantity or form bears negative repercussions on overall health.

According to the researchers, their study is novel in the sense that it is based on a large, community‐based sample with observations derived from standardized echocardiographs. Further, the use of standardized procedures to evaluate alcohol consumption and associated cardiovascular risk factors has given definite results.

Ask for help against alcohol addiction

With increasing population burden of AF and growing prevalence of alcohol consumption among Americans, making people realize the possible relationship between alcohol consumption and AF may help reduce the risk to heart and save lives of many. Chronic alcohol consumption, even at moderate levels, can affect heart health and deteriorate both physical and mental health. Therefore, it is important to break ties with alcohol before it is too late.

If you or anyone close to you is suffering from alcohol-related problems, the Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California can help you find some of the finest alcohol addiction treatment facilities in California that offer effective therapeutic interventions to help a person regain control of his or her life. You can even chat online with the representatives or call the 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715.

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