A new study suggests that women who consume up to two alcoholic drinks daily do not manifest a high risk of atrial fibrillation or irregular heart beat. However, drinking more than the limit is already linked to a higher risk.
In the past, there has been a lot of inconsistency in the findings of various studies on how regular alcohol intake affects atrial fibrillation. Several studies found that there is a considerable link between the risk and drinking moderate to high amounts of liquor in males but not in females. The problem was that these studies did not cover a substantial sample size for researchers to conclude that there are, indeed links of the same kind in women.
For this particular study, a team headed by David Conen, MD of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School and University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland analyzed data taken from a controlled trial of 34,715 women to determine the effects of alcohol intake on the risk of experiencing atrial fibrillation. The study ran from 1993 to 2006. Consumption was determined through questionnaires when the trial started and after 48 months of follow-up. The group was divided into four categories according to the amount of alcohol consumed daily and the subjects were asked to answer questionnaires yearly on atrial fibrillation. They also went through electrocardiogram and medical check-up to confirm the reports.
Halfway through the study’s time frame, “there were 653 confirmed cases of new atrial fibrillation.” Based on the results of the study, the researchers concluded, “alcohol consumption of up to 2 drinks per day was not associated with an increased risk of incident atrial fibrillation among initially health, middle-aged women. In contrast, the small group of women who consumed two or more alcoholic beverages per day had a 1.6-fold greater risk for atrial fibrillation relative to nondinking women.”
The researchers add that the findings of the study suggest that there is a threshold effect with regards to the link between alcohol intake and the risk of an increased heart beat in women.
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