The study in the European Heart Journal, found that, compared to drinking no alcohol at all, just one alcoholic drink a day was linked to a 16% increased risk of atrial fibrillation over an average (median) follow-up time of nearly 14 years. This means that while four teetotallers in 100 might develop atrial fibrillation over the period of the study, five per 100 might develop the condition if they consumed alcohol starting with slightly more than an alcoholic drink a week and more than 75% of them consumed up to one drink a day . The researchers categorised one alcoholic drink as containing 12 g of ethanol, which is the equivalent of a small (120 ml) glass of wine, a small beer (330 ml) or 40 ml of spirits.
These findings are important as the regular consumption of alcohol, the ‘one glass of wine a day’ to protect the heart, as is often recommended for instance in the lay press, should probably no longer be suggested without balancing risks and possible benefits for all heart and blood vessel diseases, including atrial fibrillation.
In addition to the 16% increased risk of atrial fibrillation compared to teetotallers seen in people who consumed only one alcoholic drink a day, the researchers found that the risk increased with increasing alcohol intake; up to two drinks a day was associated with a 28% increased risk and this went up to 47% for those who consumed more than four.
Release date: 13 January 2021
Source: European Society of Cardiology