Does Alcohol Cause AFib?

Does Alcohol Cause AFib?

You might know that a glass of wine with lunch or dinner is beneficial to your heart. But, did you know that research hasn’t found a specific link between alcohol consumption and better heart health, although some past studies have found certain heart benefits of moderate drinking?

Namely, regular alcohol consumption, i.e. drinking every day, can, in fact, increase the chance of developing atrial fibrillation (AFib). Don’t know what atrial fibrillation is? Continue reading to find out everything you need about the condition and how alcohol causes AFib.

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often very fast heart rhythm, i.e. it is a type of arrhythmia. AFib is quite serious and requires treatment as it can cause blood clots in the heart and increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart conditions and complications.

As the name of the condition suggests, the heart’s upper chambers, which are called the atria, start beating chaotically and irregularly in those with atrial fibrillation. And, they beat out of sync with the lower heart chambers, which are called the ventricles. As a result, the following symptoms may occur, but remember that AFib may also have no symptoms:

  • Fast, fluttering, or pounding heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Reduced ability to exercise

Episodes of atrial fibrillation may be persistent, or they may come and go. As already noted, AFib, even though isn’t life-threatening, is a serious medical condition that needs medical treatment to prevent stroke. Common treatment options include medicine, cardioversion, and surgery or catheter procedures.

What’s the Link between Alcohol and AFib?

In short, alcohol can increase your heart rate and disrupts the heart’s natural pacemaker, i.e. the electrical signals supposed to control it beating at the right pace. That said, there’s an obvious connection between alcohol and AFib.

However, it doesn’t mean that if you have a drink once in a while, you will develop AFib. At the same time, it is a risk factor which you should seriously consider. So, consult your doctor about what makes the most sense for you in particular, based on your health and family history.

Furthermore, according to a recent study, there’s a strong connection between getting AFib and drinking one to three drinks a day, which is generally considered moderate. Drinking more than three drinks a day, which is considered heavy drinking, increases the risk of AFib even more. In other words, the more you drink, the higher the risk of getting AFib. For every extra drink a day, the risk goes up by 8%.

But, that’s not all! You don’t even have to consume alcohol regularly to increase the risk of AFib. Indeed, having more than five drinks in a row, also known as binge drinking, can also increase the chances of developing this type of arrhythmia.

How Much Alcohol is Safe?

So, should you drink alcohol at all, or avoid it altogether? How much is safe? If you already have an abnormal heart rhythm, you should definitely avoid alcohol consumption.

One study has shown that AFib patients who gave up drinking for half a year had experienced fewer AFib episodes. Also worth mentioning, is if you are taking anticoagulants, commonly known as blood thinners, drinking alcohol can increase the risk of bleeding.