In a new study from Seoul National University Hospital, researchers found moderate to heavy drinking over an extended period may increase the risk of a dangerous type of irregular heartbeat in adults under 40.
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, occurs when the heart’s upper chambers beat irregularly and can increase stroke risk fivefold if left untreated.
Previous studies have linked higher alcohol consumption to an increased risk of AFib, but there was little research in younger adults.
In the study, the team examined the records of more than 1.5 million South Koreans ages 20 to 39 without AFib who had undergone annual checkups from 2009 to 2012.
About 42% of participants reported moderate or heavy drinking over the four years, and most were men.
During a follow-up period of about five and a half years, the overall rate of AFib was low – 0.2%.
But the risk was up to 25% higher among those who had reported moderate or heavy drinking compared to non-drinkers or light drinkers.
Moderate consumption was defined as at least 105 grams of alcohol each week – equivalent to 7.5 standard drinks. Heavy drinking was defined as at least 15 drinks each week.
A standard drink is generally equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
The team found those who reported heavy drinking over all four years had a 47% increased risk of AFib compared to non-drinkers.
This is the first study that demonstrates the effect of alcohol in a younger population.
The authors quite clearly demonstrate a dose-related effect of alcohol on atrial fibrillation risk.
The team says when someone in their 20s or 30s develops AFib, it’s not uncommon that it appears that alcohol is at least an exacerbating factor.
For more information about heart disease, please see recent studies about millions of Americans are learning to live with heart failure and results showing that this gut hormone may increase heart disease risk.
The study was presented at AHA’s virtual Scientific Sessions conference. One author of the study is Dr. Minju Han.
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