Patients with atrial fibrillation should avoid heavy drinking, as new research published in EP Europace has linked more than fourteen drinks per week with a comparatively higher risk of complications such as stroke and embolism.

In the study of more than 9,411 patients with atrial fibrillation (irregular and rapid heart rate), patients were analysed by their alcohol consumption and any subsequent complications over a median 17 month period. Drinking habits were categorised into four groups according to their weekly consumption: abstainer/rare (less than one drink), light (seven drinks), moderate (seven to fourteen drinks), and heavy (more than fourteen drinks).

The vast majority of patients reported that they abstain or rarely drink (79.2%), while the second-largest category were those who report that they are heavy drinkers (8.7%). Although this study was conducted in South Korea, it has relevance to the UK, not only because boarders do not restrict statistical evidence validity, but also because 2017 ONS stats reported that there is a regular binge drinking culture in the UK.

Clinicals should consider heavy drinking when calculating stroke risk

One of the study’s authors Dr Boyoung Joung, of Yousei University College of Medicine, Seoul, said of the findings that: “Our study suggests that atrial fibrillation patients should avoid heavy alcohol consumption to prevent stroke and other complications.”

“[We] did not find any significant association between light or moderate drinking and complications. A significant deleterious relationship with heavy drinking was identified, suggesting that heavy alcohol consumption should be avoided.”

The analysis showed that the impact of heavy drinking was more pronounced in patients considered to have low stroke risk when compared to the rest of the participants. Additionally, patients who reported that they drink heavily also had a greater likelihood of health complications in patients without high blood pressure compared to those with high blood pressure.

Dr Joung added: “Heavy drinking is particularly detrimental for atrial fibrillation patients who are considered less vulnerable to complications. Clinicians should ask patients about their alcohol consumption and take it into account when calculating their stroke risk.”