Page last updated: Monday, February 09, 2009
Moderate drinking not linked with higher risk of irregular heart beat for women
Women who have up to two alcoholic drinks per day do not appear to be at increased risk of atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat), but drinking more than that amount is associated with a higher risk, according to a new study.

David Conen, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, and University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues analysed data from a completed randomised controlled trial involving 34,715 women participating in the Women’s Health Study, to assess the effects of regular alcohol consumption on the risk of atrial fibrillation. The participants were older than 45 years and had no atrial fibrillation at the start of the study and underwent follow-up from 1993 to October 2006.

During a median (midpoint) follow-up of 12.4 years, there were 653 confirmed cases of new atrial fibrillation. Among women consuming no alcohol (n = 15,370), there were 294 events (1.9 %); for women consuming more than 0 and less than 1 drink per day (n = 15,758), there were 284 events (1.8%); for 1 to 2 drinks per day (n = 2,228), there were 35 events (1.6%); and for women consuming 2 or more drinks per day (n = 1,359), there were 40 atrial fibrillation events (2.9%).

“While this finding needs to be interpreted with some caution because of the small number of women in some subgroups, it supports a possible threshold effect in the relationship between alcohol consumption and risk of atrial fibrillation among women,” the authors write.

Source: David Conen et al. Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Incident Atrial Fibrillation in Women. JAMA, 2008;300(21):2489-2496

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