Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a heartbeat that is fast and often irregular. While treatable, it is a severe condition because it may lead to complications like blood clots, heart failure, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, and stroke. Millions of Americans are diagnosed with AFib each year. Given how prevalent AFib is, you may wonder how alcohol affects AFib.

Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is a known cause of AFib. If you have AFib or are concerned about developing it, abstaining from alcohol is a good choice.

Article at a Glance:

  • AFib is a heart condition defined by a fast and irregular heartbeat
  • AFib can lead to blood clots, stroke, and heart failure
  • Alcohol is a known cause of AFib
  • The more alcohol you drink per day, the higher your risk of developing AFib
  • Binge drinking also increases your risk of developing AFib
  • While liquor and wine appear to increase the risk of AFib, it is not known if beer has the same effect

Causes of Atrial Fibrillation

Some common causes of AFib include:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease or abnormalities
  • Heart attack or heart surgery
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Certain medications
  • Old age
  • A family history of AFib

Does Alcohol Cause AFib?

Alcohol consumption is a known cause of AFib. In the short term, alcohol disrupts your natural pacemaker, or the electric circuitry in the heart that keeps a normal, steady heartbeat. Disruption of steady electrical signals in the heart can lead to an irregular and fast heartbeat. Long-term alcohol consumption can lead to structural changes in the heart that also contribute to AFib risk.

The relationship between alcohol and AFib is dose-dependent, which means the more you drink, the higher your risk of developing AFib.

A study found that even moderate consumption of alcohol, or drinking one to three drinks per day, is associated with increased AFib risk. Heavy drinking, or drinking three or more drinks per day, increases the risk even more. Researchers concluded that for each additional drink per day, the risk of AFib goes up 8 percent.

Even if you don’t drink regularly, a binge, defined as five or more drinks in a single occasion, can lead to AFib. You may have heard of holiday heart syndrome, which is a known condition where heartbeat irregularities occur after heavy drinking. One study found that the risk of AFib was 13 percent higher in people who binge drink compared to people who don’t.

Different Types of Alcohol and AFib

It is not well understood whether certain types of alcohol contribute to AFib risk more than others. However, the results of one study where participants self-reported quantity and type of alcohol consumption suggest that beer may not increase AFib risk as much as wine or liquor.

Among study participants who drank more than 14 drinks per week, those who reported drinking only beer had a 6 percent increased risk of getting AFib, compared to a 30 percent increased risk for wine drinkers and 43 percent for liquor drinkers. While wine and liquor certainly appear to contribute to AFib risk, evidence for beer is less clear.

If you are struggling with alcohol use, help is available. The Recovery Village offers personalized alcohol rehab treatment programs to help you or a loved one overcome alcohol abuse and alcohol an addiction (also known as alcohol use disorder). Call The Recovery Village today to learn more.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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  1. U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Atrial fibrillation or flutter.” Medline Plus, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019.
  2. Rosenthal, Lawrence. “Atrial Fibrillation.” Medscape, 2018. Accessed March 25, 2019.
  3. Voskoboinik, Aleksandr, et al. “Alcohol and Atrial Fibrillation.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published December 2016. Accessed March 25, 2019.

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