Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is it okay to drink alcohol if I have an implanted defibrillator?

Q. You have said that alcohol can cause heart rhythm problems. I have an implanted defibrillator. Is it okay for me to drink alcohol?

A. Alcohol can, indeed, cause heart rhythm problems in people who drink too much or who are extra-sensitive to the effects of alcohol. It can trigger atrial fibrillation, which can make an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) deliver a shock when it shouldn't.

Keep in mind that everyone is different. Some hearts aren't much affected by alcohol. Others are, and for them, even small amounts of alcohol can disturb the rhythm.

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