Moderate drinking may increase the risk of the heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation in older people with heart disease or diabetes, a new study suggests. Atrial fibrillation is a risk factor for stroke, according to HealthDay.
The findings come from an international study of more than 30,000 people ages 55 and older who had a history of heart disease or advanced diabetes that caused organ damage. The researchers found that moderate to high alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation. The study defined moderate drinking for women as up to two drinks a day, or one to 14 drinks per week. For men, moderate drinking was defined as three drinks daily, or one to 21 drinks each week.
“Because drinking moderate quantities of alcohol was common in our study (36.6 percent of the participants), our findings suggest that the effect of increased alcohol consumption, even in moderate amounts, on the risk of atrial fibrillation among patients with existing cardiovascular disease may be considerable,” lead researcher Dr. Koon Teo of McMaster University said in a news release.
“Recommendations made about the protective effects of moderate alcohol intake in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease may need to be tempered with these findings,” the researchers noted.
The study is published in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.