In a new study, researchers found that 14 drinks a week is linked with a higher risk of health problems including stroke and embolism in patients with atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder.
The finding suggests that atrial fibrillation patients should avoid heavy alcohol consumption to prevent stroke and other complications.
The research was conducted by a team at Yonsei University College of Medicine.
The study included 9,411 patients with atrial fibrillation from 18 tertiary hospitals covering all geographical regions of South Korea.
Patients were categorized into four groups according to their weekly alcohol consumption (one drink contains 14 grams of alcohol): abstainer/rare (0 grams/less than one drink), light (less than 100 grams/7 drinks), moderate (100-200 grams/7-14 drinks), and heavy (200 grams/14 drinks or more).
They were followed-up for about 17 months for adverse events, which included stroke, transient ischaemic attack, a blood clot in a limb or organ, and hospitalization for rate or rhythm control of atrial fibrillation or for heart failure management.
The team found heavy drinking was linked to a 32% increased risk compared with abstainers and rare drinkers.
No strong association was observed for light or moderate alcohol consumption.
Further analysis showed that the impact of heavy drinking was more pronounced in patients with low stroke risk compared to those at moderate or high stroke risk.
Similarly, heavy drinking was linked to a greater likelihood of unfavorable outcomes in patients without high blood pressure compared to those with high blood pressure.
Higher risks were also observed in patients not using beta-blockers or antiplatelet medications compared to those taking the drugs.
The findings indicate that heavy drinking is particularly detrimental for atrial fibrillation patients who are considered less vulnerable to complications.
Clinicians should ask patients about their alcohol consumption and take it into account when calculating their stroke risk.
The team says while heavy drinking should be strongly discouraged among atrial fibrillation patients, moderate drinking seems to be safe.
One author of the study is Dr. Boyoung Joung.
The study is published in EP Europace.
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