Contributed by: Abshar Faheem


Understanding how heavy alcohol leads to irregular heartbeat

Generally, people love drinking alcohol at least once a day either with dinner or after it. Some people also do binge drinking when they are at a party or in a wedding ceremony. However, some previous research has shown the benefits of moderate drinking while these studies did not prove a definite link between alcohol and your heart health. If you drink every day, it might enhance the chances of you getting an irregular heartbeat or a condition called atrial fibrillation (AFib.) AFib (arrhythmia) is described as a condition that disrupts your heartbeat. 

In this condition, the blood moving from the top chambers of the heart to the bottom chambers may vary from beat to beat and this makes the heart unable to pump the blood to the rest of the body effectively. Men who have more than two drinks in a day and women who have more than one drink daily are at increased risk of getting AFib. The main symptoms of AFib include palpitations, chest pain, breathlessness, low blood pressure, and dizziness. AFib often does not cause symptoms that make your AFib untreated. The serious complications of AFib include stroke, blood clots, heart failure, and cognitive problems.

However, people who drink a smaller amount of alcohol regularly are also at higher risk of getting irregular heartbeats. There are various factors you can control to reduce the risk of AFib including managing the diet, abstaining from harmful substances, stress management, and exercise. People with AFib have been advised to avoid alcohol because it might worsen their symptoms. Previous research has associated heavy drinking with a greater chance that someone who doesn’t have Afib might develop it in the future. 


Excessive alcohol leads to more risk

A recent study has proved a link between heavy drinking (one to three drinks in a day) and developing AFib. If you drink more than one glass or two, you may develop an even greater risk of developing AFib. And if you drink more, you get more risk day by day. Studies have shown that drinking an additional glass of alcohol every day can increase your risk by 8%.

You should not drink regularly and if you do binge drinking, you are more likely to develop AFib. Different types of alcohol may increase the risk of AFib including one to three glasses of wine and liquor per day. But they do not find a relationship with drinking beer. Besides, in another recent study, researchers observed that people who drank moderate amounts of alcohol often had a greater risk of Afib than those who seldom drank a lot of alcohol in binge drinking. 


Effects of drinking alcohol

Effects of drinking alcohol on the human body and majorly leading to irregular heartbeat


Effects on the cells

Drinking heavy alcohol can destroy the cells and lead to meager amounts of fibrous tissue inside the heart causing an irregular heartbeat. People who regularly drink are more prone to have ongoing irregular heartbeats even after getting catheter ablation (a treatment for irregular heartbeat where parts of the heart are cauterized.)


Electrophysical Effects

The cells in the heart contract in a coordinated way by the flow of electrical signals between cells. With time, drinking may alter these electrical signals causing an irregular heartbeat.


Effect on the Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system regulates bodily functions such as heart rate, digestion, and respiratory rate. Drinking heavy alcohol may stimulate this internal nervous system leading to an irregular heartbeat.


How can we have safe alcohol drinking?

You should start avoiding drinking alcohol if you find an abnormal heart rhythm. A study in Australia found out that people with AFib had fewer episodes when they stopped drinking for 6 months. If you are taking blood thinners, drinking alcohol can enhance your risk of bleeding. Drinking alcohol also causes a problem if you take drugs to reduce blood clotting. 

There should be more research to find out the precise causes for the relationship between irregular heartbeat and alcohol. Experts and researchers believe that they might include the direct toxicity and alcohol contribution to high blood pressure, sleep-disordered breathing, and obesity. There should be more research to determine whether avoiding alcohol is good for people with irregular heartbeats.


The bottom line

Regular heavy drinking may also cause increased heart rate, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke including ischemic and hemorrhagic. If you feel an irregular heartbeat, talk to your doctor immediately. He will suggest the best diet and treatment plan after diagnosis.