Alcohol may trigger dangerous 'holiday heart'
Misha Gajewski, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, December 6, 2016 1:05PM EST
One glass of wine a day increases the risk of experiencing a heart flutter, according to new research.
The data, from more than 900,000 people who were followed for at least 12 years, showed that regular drinking, even light amounts, can be dangerous.
An irregular heartbeat can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure and other complications, according to scientists from Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.
Previous research has shown that regularly drinking a moderate amount of wine may have some cardiovascular benefits.
The literature indicates that it only benefits the heart’s arteries and circulation, or “plumbing,” as CTV medical consultant Dr. Marla Shapiro explained to CTV News Channel.
This study examined the effect of alcohol on the heart’s electrical system.
“People who binge drink or drink a little bit more than usual often end up with an irregular heart rhythm,” said Shapiro, a condition which she calls “holiday heart”.
The study published in the journal American College of Cardiology found that risk of experiencing an irregular heartbeat, otherwise known as atrial fibrillation, grew by 8 per cent for each daily alcoholic drink in both men and women.
Although the exact reason for the increased risk is unclear, Shapiro told CTV News there could be a number of contributing factors.
“It may be that alcohol affects you on the cellular level, that it causes more fibrous tissue. It affects you on the electrical level, so the way that your heart speaks to each other is different. It affects our autonomic nervous system, which controls our (heart) rate, making things more irregular,” she said.
More research will be needed to determine the specific relationship between alcohol and irregular heartbeat.
In the meantime, Shapiro advises people with irregular heartbeats to be aware of the risks associated with drinking and reiterates the study’s suggestion of consuming just one drink per day with two alcohol-free days per week, to minimize health risks.