Heart Care

Moderate Drinking Linked to Heart Rhythm Problem

When it comes to your heart, you can do a lot to keep it healthy. For instance, you can stop smoking and exercise more. Past research has also shown that an occasional drink may boost heart health. But older people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes may want to reconsider how much they drink. A recent study found that even moderate drinking for these people may raise their risk for atrial fibrillation.

Photo of couple holding glasses of champagne

Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm disorder. It causes the heart to have an irregular beat. About 2.7 million Americans have the condition. It increases a person's risk for stroke.

Study explores link

Researchers looked at data for more than 30,000 people across 40 countries. Participants were 55 and older. All had a history of cardiovascular disease or advanced diabetes. Among this group, researchers found a higher risk for atrial fibrillation in those who drank a moderate to high amount of alcohol.

Researchers defined moderate drinking as two drinks daily for women and three drinks a day for men. Drinking more than five drinks a day was considered binge drinking.

"Our findings suggest that the effect of increased alcohol consumption, even in moderate amounts, on the risk of atrial fibrillation among patients with existing cardiovascular disease may be considerable," says Koon Teo, Ph.D., of McMaster University in Ontario.

Drinking and your heart

Even though studies have shown a possible link with moderate drinking and a healthier heart, research is ongoing. Wine, in particular, may be beneficial. Experts do know that too much alcohol can increase your risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that everyone limit how much alcohol he or she drinks. Focus on moderation. And if you don't drink, don't start. The AHA considers moderate drinking as one drink daily for women and one to two drinks daily for men.

This study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Heart Association - Alcohol and Heart Disease

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Beyond Hangovers: Understanding Alcohol's Impact on Your Health

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health

December 2012

Tips to Avoid Heart Disease

Your heart is a vital organ that keeps your body functioning. So take care of your heart and yourself. Start with the following lifestyle changes:

  • Get smoke-free. Smokers have twice the risk of having a heart attack than nonsmokers. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways to quit.

  • Eat heart-friendly foods. Try to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily. Avoid fatty meats, whole-milk products, egg yolks, and fried foods.

  • Set exercise goals. Begin with short sessions, such as a 10-minute walk. Gradually increase the length of your workouts; work up to 30 minutes on most days of the week.

  • Make sure your blood pressure is in the optimal range or under control. If you have high blood pressure, eating less salt may help to lower it. Also, exercise regularly and limit alcohol.

  • Watch your weight. The AHA considers obesity to be a major risk factor for heart disease.

  • Reduce stress whenever possible. Continued and high levels of stress have been consistently linked to health problems including an increased risk for heart disease and cardiac death. Keep your stress low by exercising and making some quiet time for yourself each day.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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