How Drinking Alcohol Every Day Affects Your Health
Having one drink each day could put your heart at risk for abnormalities for the rest of your life.
Having an occasional happy hour drink or celebratory toast doesn’t typically increase your risk of disease. In fact, having a glass of wine throughout the week has been found to improve your heart health. But if having a drink turn into an everyday habit, a team of researchers at the American Heart Association warn it could drastically increase your risk of irregular heartbeats and blood flow.
For the study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers recruited 5,220 American participants of the average age of 56. For six years, each participant underwent electrocardiograms (EKG), which is a way to measure the electrical activity of the heart in order to reveal any abnormalities. In addition, researchers surveyed participants to find out how much alcohol they consumed on a regular basis. Those who drank habitually every day – even if it was just one drink – were at the highest risk for atrial fibrillation, a heart condition that causes irregular beats and failure to pump blood properly.
“Our study provides the first human evidence of why daily, long-term alcohol consumption may lead to the development of this very common heart rhythm disturbance,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Gregory Marcus, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, in a statement. “We were somewhat surprised that a relatively small amount of alcohol was associated with a larger left atrium and subsequent atrial fibrillation.”
For every one drink a person had each day, not only did it increase their risk of developing atrial fibrillation by 5 percent, it also meant they were up to 75 percent more likely to have a larger heart chamber (left atrium). Living with these heart abnormalities greatly increases the risk of other conditions, such as high blood pressure, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats. Ultimately, this doubles a person’s risk of succumbing to a heart-related death. While alcohol’s effect on the heart is still not completely clear, researchers plan to continue exploring the link in order to reduce the risk of heart abnormalities.
“It’s not one size fits all when it comes to the effects of alcohol and heart health,” Marcus said. “Our hope is that by understanding the mechanistic relationship between alcohol and atrial fibrillation we might learn something inherent to atrial fibrillation in general that could help identify new ways of understanding and treating the disease.”
Health and Wellness Associates