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Research Summary

Risk of Atrial Fibrillation Rises in Women Consuming 2 or More Drinks per Day

Despite consistent results from studies among men, studies assessing the effect of regular alcohol consumption on the risk of atrial fibrillation among women have provided inconsistent results. Investigators analyzed data from 34,715 women participating in the Women's Health Study to assess the effects of regular alcohol consumption on the risk of atrial fibrillation. Participants were ≥45 years old and had no atrial fibrillation at baseline. Alcohol consumption was assessed via questionnaire at the beginning of thestudy and at 48 months. Atrial fibrillation was self-reported on yearly questionnaires and subsequently confirmed by medical record review.

  • During a median follow-up of 12.4 years, there were 653 new cases of atrial fibrillation:
     
    • 294 events (1.9 percent) among women consuming no alcohol (n=15,370);
    • 284 events (1.8 percent) among women consuming more than 0 but less than 1 drink per day (n=15,758);
    • 35 events (1.6 percent) among women consuming 1 or more but less than 2 drinks per day (n=2228); and
    • 40 events (2.9 percent) among women consuming 2 or more drinks per day (n=1359).
  • The absolute-risk increase among women consuming 2 or more drinks per day was 0.66 events per 1000 person-years.
  • After adjusting for age, systolic blood pressure, hypertension, body mass index, smoking, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, exercise, race/ethnicity, and education, consuming at least 2 alcoholic beverages per day remained significantly associated with increased risk of atrial fibrillation (hazard ratio, 1.60).

Comments:

These results demonstrate that alcohol consumption of less than 2 drinks per day is not associated with an increased risk of incident atrial fibrillation among middle-aged women. The results also suggest a threshold effect at about 2 drinks per day.

Julia H. Arnsten, MD, MPH

Reference:

Conen D, Tedrow UB, Cook NR, et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of incident atrial fibrillation in women. JAMA. 2008;300(21):2489–2496.


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