A little alcohol per day is also bad for the heart

Dr. Karen Zoufal | 01/13/2021

You often hear that a glass of wine would protect the heart. Cardiologists have now come to a different conclusion, however: According to a new study with almost 108,000 people, even small amounts of alcohol that are drunk regularly can increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias.

For nearly 14 years, people who consumed one alcoholic drink a day had a 16 percent increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a type of arrhythmia. As alcohol consumption increased, it continued to increase: two drinks a day were associated with a 28 percent increased risk, and that rose to 47 percent for people who drank more than four. This is what the researchers report in the “European Heart Journal”.

While four out of 100 abstainers developed atrial fibrillation during the study period, five out of 100 people who drank alcohol regularly did so. In contrast to other heart diseases such as heart failure and myocardial infarction, which only increase with higher alcohol consumption, atrial fibrillation occurred even with small amounts of alcohol.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest study on alcohol consumption and the long-term incidence of atrial fibrillation in the population. In our study we were able to show that even very little regular alcohol consumption can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, ”said Professor Renate Schnabel from the Heart and Vascular Center at the University of Hamburg-Eppendorf.

The researchers examined 107,845 people in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Italy between 1982 and 2010. During the average observation period of almost 14 years, 5,854 people developed atrial fibrillation. The associations between alcohol consumption and the risk of atrial fibrillation were similar for all types of alcoholic beverages, as well as for men and women.


DOI 10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa953
DOI 10.1093/eurheartj/ehaa955


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