A new study claims spreading out your alcohol consumption over a week could be more dangerous than binge drinking. Researchers in South Korea came to this conclusion after studying the drinking habits of almost 10 million people. The risk of irregular heartbeat, also known as atrial fibrillation (AF), increased depending on the number of times a person drank in a week.
"Recommendations about alcohol consumption have focused on reducing the absolute amount rather than the frequency," study author Dr Jong-Il Choi, of Korea University College of Medicine and Korea University Anam Hospital in Seoul, told a news portal. Adding, "Our study suggests that drinking less often may also be important to protect against atrial fibrillation."
For the study, researchers analysed 9,776,956 individuals who underwent a health check-up in 2009 and did not have AF. Participants were asked to provide data on how much they drank in a week, as well as the amount consumed during each session. Researchers monitored the group till 2017 to know if they developed AF.
The study's results showed the number of times a person drank in a week increased their risk of developing the condition. Those who drank daily had a 40 per cent increased risk of developing AF. This condition can significantly increase the risk of stroke. Those who consumed alcohol twice a week had a reduced risk of the condition.Meanwhile, those who drank once a week had a 9 per cent increased chance of AF.
"Our study suggests that frequent drinking is more dangerous than infrequent binge drinking with regard to AF," Dr Choi told a news portal. Adding, "The number of drinking sessions was related to atrial fibrillation onset regardless of age and sex."
Dr Choi further explained: "Repeated episodes of atrial fibrillation triggered by alcohol may lead to overt disease." Adding, "In addition, drinking can provoke sleep disturbance which is a known risk factor for atrial fibrillation."
Researchers believe drinking in moderation could be beneficial. However, they have yet to determine why."Press coverage often focuses on the 'protective' effects of moderate drinking on the heart," Mark Leyshon, senior research and policy manager at Alcohol Change UK, told a news portal. Adding, "However, current evidence suggests that these are only present for some conditions, for some people, at some points in their lives and only at low levels of drinking."
Leyshon further explained: "Even if alcohol may improve heart health in certain cases, drinking will likely also increase the risk of developing other circulatory system conditions, like high blood pressure and stroke."
Dr Choi urges people to assess how much and how often they are consuming alcohol, especially if heart rhythm disorders are a cause for concern. "Alcohol consumption is probably the most easily modifiable risk factor. To prevent new-onset atrial fibrillation, both the frequency and weekly amount of alcohol consumption should be reduced," Dr Choi told a news portal.
The study's findings were originally published in EP Europace, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
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