Research suggest DRINKING a glass of wine per day raises the risk of potentially fatal heart flutter. Scientists discovered consuming even small amounts of alcohol regularly may be linked to greater risk of irregular heart rhythms. Males and females both have an eight percent risk factor as per the research. Prior studies revealed that a light to moderate intake of alcohol (seven standard drinks per week for women and 14 for men) may lower the chances of heart disease, specifically coronary artery disease.
However, the most recent research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology this week reveals this is not true when dealing with an irregular heartbeat. Professor Peter Kistler, of Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, stated: “There has been a lot of attention in recent years about the benefits of drinking small amounts of alcohol for the heart.”
“The results are significant, since chances are, there are people who are consuming one to two glasses of alcohol per day that may not realise they are putting themselves at risk for irregular heartbeat.”
The research reviewed approximately 900,000 individuals for 12 years reporting an eight per cent increase in the risk of irregular heartbeat for people having an alcoholic beverage per day. Both sexes share the impact equally.
Prof Kistler said: “While moderate amounts of alcohol appear protective for the ‘plumbing’ or blood supply to the heart muscle, the benefits of alcohol do not extend to the electrical parts of the heart or heartbeat.”
“People who continue to consume alcohol at moderate rates may also notice their irregular heartbeats become more frequent.”
“This is concerning, because it can lead to serious issues, such as heart failure and stroke.”
“So, even though we do not have randomised data that tells us what a ‘safe’ amount is to consume, people with an irregular heart beat should probably drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day with two alcohol free days a week.”
Alcohol damages the cells and creates a small amount of fibrous tissue to grow on the heart causing the irregular beat. Individuals who drink daily are more likely to have chronic irregular heartbeats even following catheter ablation (treatment to regularise the heart’s rhythm). Scientist conclude that in time alcohol interferes with the coordinated contraction of heart muscles causing irregular heartbeat.
Researchers also revealed that alcohol stimulates the Autonomic Nervous System that controls heart rate, digestion and respiratory rate, causing an irregular beat. Christopher Allen of the British Heart Foundation warned Britons to watch their drinking through the Christmas season.
“The festive period is often a time of feasting and celebrations which can often lead to an increase in alcohol consumption,” he said.
“But there is no truly ‘safe’ amount of alcohol you can drink and even if you don’t exceed the recommended guidelines of 14 units per week, you could still be putting your heart health at risk.”
“No one should increase their alcohol units or take up drinking alcohol based on any current or past research into the possible benefits.”
“Any small benefits there could be from drinking alcohol are far outweighed by the risks and drinking too much could lead to irregular heart rhythms and also liver failure, high blood pressure and stroke.”
“If you are concerned about your alcohol intake or an irregular heart rhythm, talk to your GP.”
Further research is needed to be able to determine exactly why alcohol causes an irregular heartbeat. This can be due to alcohol’s direct toxicity or its contribution to obesity, sleep disordered breathing or hypertension. More research is also needed to verify if people with irregular heartbeats should avoid alcohol altogether. Current government recommendations state both sexes drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week which is the equivalent of six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine, in order to keep their health risks low. The new Department of Health limits; which become effective in January, replace the prior ones on drinking, which were put in place 21 years ago.