Higher Alcohol Consumption Ups Risk Of Abnormal Heart Rhythms

26 April 2017, 9:29 am EDT By Steve Bowman Tech Times
A new study discovered the link between acute alcohol consumption and abnormal heart rhythms in individuals. The researchers observed and analyzed 3,028 attendees at the Oktoberfest 2015 held in Munich, Germany.  ( Neilson Barnard | Getty Images )

Health experts advocate that one should drink alcohol in moderation to avoid any complications. A new study reveals that alcohol binge upsets the heart's rhythm of an individual.

The Department of Medicine at University Hospital Munich led the new study and found that the higher the alcohol consumption, the greater was the individual's risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms.

Oktoberfest, which is held in Germany, is the world's largest beer festival and usually spans over for 16 to 18 days. The festival generally starts mid-September or late-September and continues till the first weekend of October. For the purpose of the study, the researchers observed drinking behavior during the beer fest.

Oktoberfest Study: Method

Previous studies have revealed that acute alcohol consumption over a short span leads to the development of "Holiday Heart Syndrome." Individuals with no history of heart problems develop abnormal heart rhythms and sometime atrial fibrillation. However, the association of heavy drinking and cardiac arrhythmias was found in small conservative studies.

The current Oktoberfest study is the world's first largest analysis till date to prove this association on a large scale basis. The researchers observed 3,028 voluntary participants who were Oktoberfest attendees in 2015.

All the participants were given a smartphone-based ECG and their breath alcohol concentration or BAC measurements were also noted. The ECG results were analyzed and observed to detect cardiac arrhythmias, especially sinus arrhythmia, sinus tachycardia, premature atrial/ventricular complexes, and atrial fibrillation/flutter.

The researchers applied the multi-variable adjusted logistic regression method to link the BAC measurements with cardiac arrhythmias. The researchers also studied the results of a community-based KORA S4 study, which involved 4,131 participants to delve further into the connection between acute alcohol consumption and heart arrhythmias.

Acute Alcohol Consumption Linked To Abnormal Heart Rhythm?

From the 2015 Oktoberfest study, the researchers found that the smartphone-based ECG measurements recorded 30.5 percent of cardiac arrhythmias amongst the 3,028 attendees cum participants of the fest.

Most of the cardiac arrhythmias cases were of sinus tachycardia (25.9 percent). It was also discovered that the BAC measurements had significant links with cardiac arrhythmias cases in the participants and sinus tachycardia in particular.

It was discovered that for "each one gram of alcohol per kilogram of blood above zero the likelihood of a cardiac arrhythmia increased by 75%."

"Three grams of alcohol per kilogram of blood reflects a very high alcohol intake, approaching the border of intoxication, and not many people can tolerate it," the lead author of the study Stefan Brunner shared.

Applicability In Clinical Circles

Although the researchers established a significant association between heavy drinking and abnormal heart rhythm, not many physicians see how the results will aid clinical care.

Kenneth J. Mukamal, a physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center remarked that the results don't concentrate directly on cardiac arrhythmias.

"This does provide some interesting mechanistic insight into how alcohol influences risk of heart rhythm disturbances at high doses, but it does not otherwise identify new risks from drinking," Mukamal told MedPage Today.

Even Daniel P. Morin, MD at the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans shared that one can explain the irregular heart rates as a result of excitement in a high-charged festival like Oktoberfest.

The study's findings have been published in European Heart Journal on Wednesday, April 26.

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