Moderate drinking may raise the risk of atrial fibrillation

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Both heavy drinking and binge drinking (consuming large amounts of alcohol in a single session) are known to increase a person's risk of atrial fibrillation (afib). But even moderate drinking may leave people more prone to the rapid, irregular heart rhythm, a new study suggests.

The report, published online January 9 by the journal Heart Rhythm, included 75 people with afib. Twenty-five were lifelong nondrinkers, 25 were light drinkers (two to seven drinks per week) and 25 were moderate drinkers (eight to 21 drinks weekly). Each participant underwent special tests that generated a three-dimensional map showing electrical and structural changes in their left atria, the heart's upper-left chamber. These changes reflect the severity of afib.

Researchers found that moderate drinkers had more evidence of scarring and electrical signaling problems in their atria than nondrinkers or light drinkers. The findings suggest that even moderate drinking can harm the heart — and that people may lower their risk of afib by limiting their alcohol use.

Image: Horsche/iStock

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