Longer Abstention from Alcohol Lowers Atrial Fibrillation Risk

Note: CTSI supported Shalini Dixit, TL1 predoctoral fellow (Yearlong Inquiry Program, 2015-16), lead author of this study.

UCSF Researchers Recommend Earlier Modification of Alcohol Use for Disease Prevention

alcohol stock photo

By Scott Maier via UCSF.edu

In the first study looking at cessation of alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation (AF) risk, UC San Francisco researchers have shown that the longer people abstain from drinking alcohol, the lower their risk of AF.

After adjusting for potential variables, the researchers found that every decade of abstinence from alcohol was associated with an approximately 20 percent lower rate of AF, regardless of the type of alcohol consumed, such as beer, wine or liquor.

Their study appears online Oct. 18, 2017, in PLOS ONE.

“For a disease that affects millions and is one of the most important causes of stroke, identifying modifiable risk factors is especially important,” said senior author Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, a UCSF Health cardiologist and director of clinical research in the UCSF Division of Cardiology. “Future research may help identify patients particularly prone to alcohol-related AF, and, when done, targeted counseling to those patients may be especially effective.”

In AF, electrical impulses in the upper chambers of the heart are chaotic, and the atrial walls quiver, rather than contracting normally in moving blood to the lower chambers. As a result, blood clots may form, leading to stroke or heart attacks. One in four adults over age 40 is at risk for AF, with a projection of nearly 6 million people in the nation having the condition by 2050.

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