People who binge drink could be putting themselves at risk of a fatal heart rhythm disorder, according to a new study.

The report, published in the Nature Cardiovascular Research journal, found that heavy drinking could lead to a risk of atrial fibrillation (AF), a heart rhythm that often leads to a stroke.

The research is the first of its kind to show a link between increased drinking and hospital visits due to AF. It is also the first to link an increased incidence of new-onset AF to acute alcohol consumption.

An important risk factor for AF

The study looked at 100 AF patients who were due to undergo surgery and identified physiological changes to the heart that were triggered by elevated blood alcohol levels.

Although no AF episodes were observed during the study, the changes observed to the heart because of alcohol consumption had previously been associated with an elevated AF risk.

Professor Gregory Marcus of the University of California, San Francisco, and senior author of the study said: “Our new data suggests that acute alcohol consumption in the general population is associated with a higher risk of an episode of atrial fibrillation, including a higher risk for a first episode among individuals never previously diagnosed with the condition.

“Worldwide, alcohol is the most popularly consumed drug, and it is now clear that alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for atrial fibrillation.”

Researchers also looked at the days of the year when people were likely to drink alcohol, analysing data from more than 59 countries that used a commercially available breathalyser device.

By analysing over 1.2 million alcohol measurements, they determined that people are more likely to drink during bank holidays and major sporting events.

Professor Marcus said: “We wanted to test the hypothesis that during the dates and events we first identified as being associated with elevated alcohol consumption, we would also see more hospital visits for atrial fibrillation.

“This would imply that there is a nearly immediate relationship between excess alcohol consumption and more atrial fibrillation within the population.”

Alcohol testing at AlphaBiolabs

AlphaBiolabs works with family law professionals and local authorities across Ireland, providing a range of legal alcohol testing services, including blood and hair alcohol testing.

We also offer workplace alcohol testing for businesses of all sizes, from SMEs to large-scale enterprises.

To find out more, call our Customer Services team on 01 402 9466 or email info@alphabiolabs.ie.