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Doctors & patients are saying about 'Beat Your A-Fib'...

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Dr. Wilber Su,
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Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA

Familial A-Fib Alert: Does Just One Drink Per Day Increase A-Fib Risk?

For those with A-Fib, it’s now known that your blood relations are at increased risk of developing A-Fib (Familial Atrial Fibrillation). Consider sharing this research with them.

More Research: Alcohol and Atrial Fibrillation

In a huge European observational study over 14 years, just one alcohol drink a day was linked to a 16% increased risk of developing A-Fib. For 14 years, 108,000 Europeans were followed (participants joined between 1982 and 2010). They were from Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Italy.  Median age was 48 years.

None of them had A-Fib at the start of the study. Participants were asked to indicate how often they consumed beer, wine, and  spirits as well as their drinking pattern. They also provided information on their medical histories, lifestyles (including alcohol and tobacco use), employment, and education levels.

Does Alcohol Cause A-Fib?

Alcohol: Does one drink a day matter?

This study didn’t say that alcohol causes A-Fib but only that there is an association.

One caveat of this study is that, despite much research, the mechanism of how or why moderate drinking increases the risk of A-Fib was not identified.

The risk of A-Fib increased with alcohol intake of more than 1/day.

(Other studies have shown that low doses of alcohol are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart failure.)  

Binge vs Moderate Drinking

Many patients end up with heart palpations after celebrating three-day holiday weekends. Called Holiday Heart Syndrome, doctors in hospital emergency rooms know all too well that binge drinking produces A-Fib in some people.

But up to now, moderate alcohol consumption was considered not just benign but heart helpful.

Familial A-Fib: Weigh the Risks of Moderate Drinking

My Top 5 articles on inherited A-Fib

While a 16% risk of developing A-Fib is small, it is something you and your family should be concerned about.

Those with A-Fib and those without A-Fib need to ask themselves if the risk of A-Fib is outweighed by the benefits of moderate drinking?

You should also consider your quality of life. Having a drink with your golfing buddies or a party with your girl friends may be more socially important than becoming a teetotaler.

But for those at increased risk of developing A-Fib, it’s something you should discuss with your doctor.

Familial A-Fib: Recent studies suggest that up to 30 percent of all people with atrial fibrillation may have a history of the condition in their family.
To learn more, see my Top 5 Articles about Inherited (Familial) A-Fib.
Resources for this article

• Csengeri, D. et al. Alcohol consumption, cardiac biomarkers, and risk of atrial fibrillation and adverse outcomes. European Heart Journal, Volume 42, Issue 12, 21 March 2021. Pages 1170-1177.

• One small alcoholic drink a day is linked to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. Science Daily. January 17, 2021.

• Even moderate alcohol consumption is linked to heart trouble. Bottom Line Personal. Volume 42, Number 9, May 1, 2021. p. 15.

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