Alcohol abuse increases risk of heart disease

Alcohol addiction can increase the risk of heart attack, atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure along with other risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure, a study has found.

The findings showed that alcohol abuse was associated with a two-fold increased risk of atrial fibrillation — irregular, often rapid heart rate causing poor blood flow.

There is also a 1.4-fold increased risk of heart attack and a 2.3-fold increased risk of congestive heart failure — a condition in which the heart does not pump blood well.

These increased risks were similar in magnitude to other well-recognised modifiable risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

“We found that even if you have no underlying risk factors, abuse of alcohol still increases the risk of these heart conditions,” said lead researcher Gregory M. Marcus, Director at the University of California, San Francisco.

Completely eradicating alcohol abuse would result in over 73,000 fewer atrial fibrillation cases, 34,000 fewer heart attacks, and 91,000 fewer patients with congestive heart failure in the US alone, the researchers noted.

For the study, the team analysed 14.7 million patients from California aged 21 and older who received ambulatory surgery, emergency or inpatient medical care.

Among these 1.8 per cent, or approximately 268,000, were diagnosed with alcohol abuse.

“We were somewhat surprised to find those diagnosed with some form of alcohol abuse were at significantly higher risk of a heart attack,” Marcus said.

“We hope this study will temper the enthusiasm for drinking in excess and will avoid any justification for excessive drinking because people think it will be good for their heart. These data pretty clearly prove the opposite,” he stated.