Alcohol and Afib

What is the relationship between alcohol and AFib? What should you know about alcohol and AFib? Does alcohol cause AFib?

These are all common questions, and below are some of the key facts to know about the links between alcohol and AFib.

Alcohol and AFib | Does Alcohol Cause AFib?
Before looking at the specifics of alcohol and AFib, and exploring does alcohol cause AFib, what is this condition?

AFib stands for atrial fibrillation, and it refers to an irregular heartbeat that can cause many complications including blood clots, heart failure, and strokes. There are millions of Americans who have AFib, and for many people, it feels like they’re heart is skipping or flip-flopping, particularly if they’re exerting themselves. It can also lead to people feeling nauseous or like they’re going to faint.

When you suffer from AFib, your heart chambers beat irregularly instead of beating the way they need to in order to effectively make sure blood moves into your ventricles. If you have AFib and a clot occurs and breaks off, it can block an artery and lead to a stroke. A big portion of people who have strokes have AFib, and blood thinners are one of the best ways to treat this condition to avoid strokes.

The following are some possible causes of Afib:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Abnormalities in the heart valves
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Metabolic or thyroid imbalances
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Viral infections
  • Stress because of illnesses or surgery
  • Sleep apnea

Another potential cause is exposure to stimulants including caffeine, medications, tobacco or alcohol. So, does alcohol cause AFib? Yes, with alcohol and AFib, drinking can be a possible cause.

Risk factors aside from alcohol and AFib include:

  • Age—the older you are, the more at risk you are for atrial fibrillation, although it can occur in younger people too
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic conditions including metabolic syndrome, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes
  • Obesity
  • A family history

So what should you know specifically about alcohol and AFib?

We already touched on the fact that alcohol can cause AFib, but why is that and what else should you know?

The highest risks associated with alcohol and AFib are in binge or heavy drinkers. You have a very big risk of developing atrial fibrillation if you are a heavy drinker. There was a study done in Sweden recently that looked at the connection between alcohol and AFib, and it showed that people who drank infrequently, ranging from one to six drinks a week had a six percent increased risk of developing AFib.

For moderate drinkers consuming seven to 14 drinks a week, that was a 12 percent increased risk.

For heavy drinkers having more than 14 drinks a week, that chance increased to 18 percent.

The risk levels varied based on the type the type of alcohol. For example, light beer drinkers had a zero percent increased risk of AFib, while light liquor drinkers having one to six drinks a week had a five percent increased risk.

The highest risk relationship between alcohol and AFib was for heavy drinkers of liquor. In the study people who had more than 14 liquor drinks a week had a 46 percent increased risk of developing AFib.

The relationship between alcohol and AFib is being studied more in-depth now, but it’s not new information. Back in the 1970s alcohol and AFib were linked, and people even referred to it as holiday heart syndrome because these episodes of AFib were peaking around times when people would be drinking excessively or binge drinking.

There are a few important facts to realize with alcohol and AFib in addition to the risks. First, there’s not a lot known about why alcohol and AFib are related. We know they are, but we don’t necessarily know the explanation as to why that’s the case.

Also, people who already have AFib and drink are more than four times more likely to have an episode of the condition when they drink as opposed to not drinking.

While it’s been established for a while that there’s a significant link between binge drinking alcohol and AFib, researchers and medical professionals are also starting to think that even moderate amounts of wine and liquor may trigger an AFib episode, although this doesn’t seem to be the case for beer.

The more alcohol you have, the more your risk of AFib.

So, what if you’re already diagnosed and wondering about alcohol and AFib? First and foremost you should always follow the advice regarding alcohol and AFib given to you by your physician, but regardless you should avoid binge drinking for sure. Your doctor may say that the combination of a small amount of alcohol and AFib is okay, but again, this should only come from your doctor because every individual is different.

To sum up, does alcohol cause AFib? Alcohol and AFib seem to have a relationship in which drinking, particularly binge drinking or drinking heavily can increase your risk of developing the condition. Also, if you already have AFIb, and you binge drink or even drink a moderate amount, you may be at a higher risk for having an episode.

Alcohol and Afib
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