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Alcohol use

New Research into Alcohol & A-Fib: How Many Drinks are Too Many?

“While moderate amounts of alcohol appear protective for the ‘plumbing,’ or blood supply to the heart muscle, the benefits of alcohol do not extend to the electrical parts of the heart, or heartbeat.”

Over time, drinking may actually change the electrical signals, triggering irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias).

“The benefits of alcohol do not extend to the electrical parts of the heart.”

Risk per Daily Alcohol Drink

A new study found the risk of atrial fibrillation grew by 8 percent for each daily alcoholic drink. The findings were similar for men and women. The authors looked at previous studies that tracked almost 900,000 people over 12 years.

Fibrosis: The study doesn’t establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Nevertheless, “cell damage from habitual drinking may lead to small amounts of fibrous tissue within the heart that causes the irregular, quivering heartbeat”, the study authors said.

Post-catheter ablation: The review found that people who continue to drink are more likely to have ongoing irregular heartbeats even after catheter ablation.

Weekly recommendation: “..No more than one alcoholic drink per day with two alcohol-free days a week.”

Weekly Alcohol Recommendation

Dr. Pater Kistler recommended that those with irregular heartbeat “should probably drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day with two alcohol-free days a week.”

He added they had no randomized data that tells what a ‘safe’ amount is to consume. The study authors called for more research to determine whether avoiding alcohol completely is required for patients who have irregular heartbeats.

Know Your Triggers

Some Atrial Fibrillation patients have sworn off alcohol altogether. Through trial and error, they’ve found that any amount of alcohol contributes to or triggers their A-Fib episodes.

Dr. Kistler’s research is helpful for the balance of A-Fib patients. It offers some research-based guidelines to minimize the impact of alcohol consumption on their A-Fib.

For additional reading, see my article:Holiday Heart”: Binging Alcohol, Marijuana & Rich Foods.

Resources for this article
▪Voskoboinik, A. et al. Alcohol and Atrial Fibrillation: A Sobering Review. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Vol. 68, No. 11, 2016.

▪Dotinga, R. Regular Drinkers, Irregular Heartbeat? Dec 5, 2016. URL:

▪ Even moderate, habitual alcohol consumption can cause irregular heartbeat. Medical Xpress. Dec 5, 2016.  URL:

Reader With A-Flutter Advises Two Lifestyle Changes

Todd in Minneapolis wrote me that he developed intermittent A-Flutter at age 54. He’s had to learn to live with it as two EPs found too much scar tissue for a successful catheter ablation.

Since then he has arrived at the best outcome for himself by making two lifestyle changes. Today, his symptoms are MUCH reduced. He shares his story with us and some advice:

“I have intermittent A-Flutter (not A-Fib) which manifests in a couple of different patterns.

With catheter ablation ruled out due to too much scar tissue, I have been electronically cardioverted 6 times. (First charge always works). Chemical cardioversion (300mg flecainide) has worked 3 times. In the summer of 2015, I was needing one or the other about every 2-4 months.

I haven’t needed either for 14 months (as of Dec 2016). What has changed? A few things.

I started paying much more attention to staying hydrated. I stopped taking Multaq (I’m off all A-Fib medications). And now my alcohol consumption is only occasional; 1-2 beers or one glass of port. I stopped drinking bourbon a couple of years ago―that was definitely a trigger. 

Today I drink water all day and a little before bed.

My monthly A-Flutter episode. I go out of rhythm every 4 weeks or so. Each time I have not been sufficiently hydrated. I’ll usually drink some water and lie down. But, sometimes I can’t take a break and have to keep working. 

Either way, the episode goes away spontaneously within 1-6 hours. That was not happening before when I paid no attention to hydration

I take only Eliquis now as a precaution.

My best advice: I advise everyone with A-Flutter/A-Fib to stop all alcohol consumption and stay hydrated. At the least, it could have a positive influence on the number of episodes, their severity and length.

It worked for me. I’ve learned to live with A-Flutter and I’m fit and very active.”

Dehydration Can Trigger A-Fib Attack

As Todd has shared, there’s a link between A-Fib episodes and dehydration. To learn more, see our article, How Drinking Too Little Can Trigger Your A-Fib.

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What’s working for you?

Thank you, Todd, for sharing what’s working for you. What about you and your A-Fib? Do you have something to share? Something that’s helping with your A-Fib symptoms? Email and share with me.

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