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Research Summary

Does Alcohol Consumption Increase the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation or Flutter?

Data on the association between alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation or flutter are inconsistent. To address this issue, Danish researchers measured baseline alcohol consumption in 47,949 subjects aged 50–64 years and prospectively identified incident atrial fibrillation or flutter (374 male cases and 182 females cases) over a mean follow-up of 6 years.

  • In analyses adjusted for potential confounders, alcohol consumption was significantly associated with the hazard of atrial fibrillation or flutter among men. The hazard ratio (HR) increased significantly beginning at 20 g of alcohol (just under 2 drinks) per day (HR 1.4 compared with the lowest quintile of consumption).
  • Increased hazards of atrial fibrillation or flutter associated with alcohol consumption were not statistically significant among women (HR 1.1 for the highest quintile of consumption).
  • The type of beverage and the frequency of consumption did not affect risk.

Comments:

This large, prospective study suggests that alcohol consumption—even as little as 2 drinks per day—is associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter in men but not in women. The study is limited by reliance on a single baseline assessment of alcohol use, inability to link specific binge behaviors to atrial fibrillation or flutter (e.g., “holiday heart”), and a relatively small number of events in women.

Kevin L. Kraemer, MD, MSc

Reference:

Frost L, Vestergaard P. Alcohol and risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter: a cohort study. Arch Int Med. 2004;164(18):1993–1998.


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May 1, 2007