Is there a connection between alcohol and AFib?

Published: Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Looking to lower your risk of developing heart health issues, including atrial fibrillation? It turns out that decreasing your alcohol consumption may be one thing to consider when it comes to AFib.

You’ve probably heard that you should limit your alcohol intake to decrease your risk of many different health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. In most cases, that means sticking with only a moderate amount of alcohol—one drink maximum per day for women and two for men.

But when it comes to atrial fibrillation, often more commonly referenced as AFib, even a moderate amount of alcohol can increase your risk. Read on for the details.

How Alcohol Affects AFib Risk

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder. In a person who has AFib, the heartbeat becomes rapid and irregular, causing a number of symptoms, including shortness of breath, near fainting spells or a sensation that the heart is beating out of your control.

Cardiology experts have long thought that there was a connection between alcohol consumption and an increased risk of AFib. A study released in mid-2021 confirmed that fact.

In the study, which was presented at the College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session, data showed that having a single glass of wine, beer, or another alcoholic beverage doubled a person’s risk of having AFib within the next four hours. Having more than one glass tripled the risk.

The research study also found that for every 0.1% increase in a person’s blood alcohol level, his or her risk of having an AFib episode increased by 40%.

The Holiday Heart Syndrome Phenomenon

Have you ever heard of holiday heart syndrome? The term is referencing heart issues that occur during a period when a person is overindulging in unhealthy foods and alcohol.

Because it’s all too easy to overindulge during the holiday season, this phenomenon is connected with the holidays. Many people attend parties during this time of year, with tables laden with salty foods and an open bar.

Too much sodium and too much alcohol can collide, creating an increased risk of developing AFib. While in many cases atrial fibrillation comes and goes quickly, these abnormal heart rhythms can increase a person’s risk of developing serious health issues, including heart failure and stroke.

How to Protect Your Heart

What does all this mean for you? Well, if you’re at a known higher risk of AFib, you may want to consider a mocktail instead of a cocktail.

But in general, an occasional single alcoholic beverage is probably OK. The key thing to remember is that your risk increases significantly with every drink you have in a single sitting.

Along with limiting your alcohol consumption, you can also protect your heart by filling your plate with healthy options like lean protein and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, staying physically active, and finding healthy ways to manage your stress, like meditation or even a moment of sitting quietly.

Learn More

Want to learn more about how to keep your heart healthy and strong? Connect with our Electrophysiology care team at Georgia Heart Institute at (770) 848-7885 to learn more about keeping your heart healthy and preventing heart disease.