Only alcohol—not caffeine, diet or lack of sleep—might harm your heart rhythm

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In a new study from UC San Francisco, researchers tested possible triggers of a common heart condition, including caffeine, sleep deprivation and sleeping on the left side.

They found that only alcohol use was consistently linked to more episodes of heart arrhythmia.

The authors conclude that people might be able to reduce their risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) by avoiding certain triggers.

Researchers were surprised to find that although most of the things that participants thought would be related to their AF were not, those in the intervention group still experienced less arrhythmia than the people in a comparison group that was not self-monitoring.

Atrial fibrillation contributes to more than 150,000 deaths in the United States each year, reports the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the death rate on the rise for more than 20 years.

In the study, the team tested 450 people. Participants utilized a mobile electrocardiogram recording device along with a phone app to log potential triggers like drinking alcohol and caffeine, sleeping on the left side or not getting enough sleep, eating a large meal, a cold drink, or sticking to a particular diet, engaging in exercise, or anything else they thought was relevant to their AF.

Although participants were most likely to select caffeine as a trigger, there was no association with AF.

The study demonstrated that consumption of alcohol was the only trigger that consistently resulted in significantly more self-reported AF episodes.

It suggests that behaviors like avoiding alcohol could lessen the chances of having an AF episode.

The team says although caffeine was the most commonly selected trigger for testing, there is no evidence of a strong link between caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation.

In contrast, alcohol consumption most consistently exhibited heightened risks of atrial fibrillation

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The study is published in JAMA Cardiol. One author of the study is Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS.

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