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Moderate Drinking can Increase Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

Update Date: Jul 14, 2014 04:13 PM EDT

Drinking alcohol even in moderation might be detrimental to one's heart, a new study reported. According to researchers from Sweden, drinking wine and hard liquor can slightly increase one's risk of developing atrial fibrillation, which occurs when the heart beats abnormally fast.

For this study, the researchers examined 79,016 adults between the ages of 45 and 83. The participants had answered questions about their food and alcohol intake in 1997. The researchers followed the participants' health for up to 12 years. During the follow-up, they counted 7,245 cases of atrial fibrillation.

The team found that people who had reported higher levels of alcohol consumption, which was defined as having more than three drinks a day, were more likely to develop atrial fibrillation. This association was not surprising since previous studies had also concluded that excessive alcohol consumption was bad for one's heart. However, the researchers also found that moderate drinking, which was defined as having one to three drinks a day, was tied to a slight increase in atrial fibrillation risk.

To examine that association further, the team conducted a meta-analysis by combining their findings with the findings from six other studies. The team analyzed a total of 12,554 cases of atrial fibrillation. The researchers calculated that for each additional drink people had per day, risk of atrial fibrillation increased by eight percent.

"We have no explanation for the lack of association with beer consumption," lead author of the study, Susanna C. Larsson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Unit of Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, said in the press release. "It is likely that beer is consumed more regularly during the week, whereas wine and liquor is more often consumed during weekends only. Adverse effects of alcohol on atrial fibrillation risk may be less pronounced if alcohol consumption is spread out over the week compared with consumption of larger amounts of alcohol during a few days per week."

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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