Everybody always ridicules the binge drinkers, who have so many drinks in a night they end up walking home from the bar or putting a lampshade on their head. But as it turns out, the slow and steady drinkers are the ones who are harming their health the most. According to a new study, frequency of drink is no good when it comes to your heart.
Whether it’s a nightly glass of wine or two or a six-pack of Coors, researchers from the Korea University College of Medicine and the Korea University Anam Hospital in Seoul say that drinking any amount of alcohol on the reg will put you in harm’s way of developing atrial fibrillation – much more so than the occasional night of binging.
“Recommendations about alcohol consumption have focused on reducing the absolute amount rather than the frequency,” said study author Dr. Jong-Il Choi, in a release. “Our study suggests that drinking less often may also be important to protect against atrial fibrillation.”
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart rhythm disorder, where the patient experiences an irregular and often rapid heart rate. It is one of the major heart arrhythmias in the world, with somewhere between 2.7 and 6.1 million Americans estimated to be affected.
Symptoms include an irregular heartbeat, palpitations, a racing pulse, dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. AFib can also lead to more serious conditions, like stroke and heart disease.
A previous study linked alcohol and atrial fibrillation, finding that each alcoholic drink consumed on a weekly basis increased one’s risk of developing AFib by 8%. However, the study wasn’t able to determine the exact cause of AFib by alcohol: either the total number of drinks or the total number of drinking sessions. As it turned out, it was the frequency.
This new study examined frequent drinking versus binge drinking in reference to new diagnoses of atrial fibrillation.
Researchers analyzed data of 9,776,956 people who did not have AFib during a health check-up in 2009 that also included a survey about alcohol consumption. Each participant was followed up until 2017 in order to find out who among them ended up developing AFib.
However, this study’s authors discovered that the number of drinking sessions per week created the highest risk factor among participants who developed AFib. Participants who reported drinking every day of the week were found to be the most at risk, while drinking just once a week meant the lowest risk factors. Binge drinkers, interestingly, didn’t show any clear link to new diagnoses to atrial fibrillation.
“Our study suggests that frequent drinking is more dangerous than infrequent binge drinking with regard to atrial fibrillation,” Dr. Choi explains, noting that this held true regardless of age and sex. “Repeated episodes of atrial fibrillation triggered by alcohol may lead to overt disease.”
Findings: cut back, now matter how you drink
So if you’re a drinker, cut back. You’ll save yourself a lot of pain if you cut back both on how often and how much you drink in the future, Dr. Choi says.
“Recommendations about alcohol consumption have focused on reducing the absolute amount rather than the frequency,” said study author Dr Jong-Il Choi, of Korea University College of Medicine and Korea University Anam Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea, in a release. “Our study suggests that drinking less often may also be important to protect against atrial fibrillation.”
The study is published in the scientific journal EP Europace.