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Regular drinkers are at a greater risk than binge drinkers for heart issues

Drinking small amounts of alcohol more frequently could increase the risk for a common heart rhythm disorder

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A new study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology revealed that those who drink small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis could be at a greater risk of a common heart condition than those who binge drink. 

The study found that regular drinkers are more likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a heart arrhythmia that increases the risk for heart failure, stroke, and blood clots. 

“Recommendations about alcohol consumption have focused on reducing the absolute amount rather than the frequency,” said researcher Dr. Jong-II Choi. “Our study suggests that drinking less often may also be important to protect against atrial fibrillation.” 

How alcohol plays a role

The researchers had over nine million people participate in the study, none of whom had atrial fibrillation at the onset. Starting in 2009 and ending in 2017, the participants received wellness exams administered by physicians and then reported on their alcohol consumption, giving the researchers ample time to evaluate their health status and determine what role alcohol played in their overall well-being. 

Those who drank regularly, which the researchers established was once per day, were found to be 22 percent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation to non-drinkers. Moderate drinkers, who drank roughly once per week, increased their risk by less than eight percent. 

The researchers noted that each additional gram of alcohol consumed over the course of the week was found to increase the risk of atrial fibrillation by two percent. 

Focusing on prevention

Dr. Choi explained that alcohol can disrupt the body’s normal sleeping patterns, which is also associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation. Health troubles can be exacerbated if those with atrial fibrillation continue to drink through their heart issues. 

Moving forward, the researchers want to emphasize the importance of prevention, as doing everything possible to get on top of potential health concerns, especially a condition like atrial fibrillation, can be life saving. 

“Atrial fibrillation is a disease with multiple dreadful complications and significantly impaired quality of life,” Dr. Choi said. “Preventing atrial fibrillation itself, rather than its complications, should be our first priority. Alcohol consumption is probably the most easily modifiable risk factor. To prevent new onset atrial fibrillation, both the frequency and the weekly amount of alcohol consumption should be reduced.” 

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