What is the Connection Between Atrial Fibrillation and Alcohol?

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  • Written By: Florence J. Tipton
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2019
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Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that prevents normal contractions in the atria to carry blood to the heart. The connection between atrial fibrillation and alcohol is related to how the body and heart respond when a person drinks. Atrial fibrillation and alcohol is linked because alcohol may reduce blood flow, regardless of the type and quantity of alcohol that is consumed. People with risk factors for having atrial fibrillation are usually advised to avoid drinking alcohol as this may exacerbate heart problems.

The atria are two upper chambers of the heart. Blood and oxygen are carried from large blood vessels to the heart from the right chamber. With the left chamber, blood vessels that extend from the lung towards the heart contributes to breathing patterns. When a person’s heart rhythm becomes fast and chaotic, this can negatively affect how either atria carries blood to the heart.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation are typically associated with breathing, energy levels, and the heart. One of the common symptoms is dysrhythmia, which is changes in the performance of a normal heart rate. When dysrhythmia occurs, the heart has a tendency to quiver. This may prevent the heart from pumping blood effectively through the body as needed. A person is usually diagnosed with atrial fibrillation after a physical or electrocardiogram (EKG) — a test that records electrical activity — reveals that an unbalanced heart rhythm is present.


People who are otherwise healthy may also experience symptoms of atrial fibrillation and dysrhythmia after drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol may reduce the flow of blood to the heart muscle. As a person drinks, the body quickly absorbs the alcohol and passes it through the blood stream. Most studies show that men are affected more than women by atrial fibrillation and alcohol consumption. For men, the chances of having atrial fibrillation is normally increased after daily consumption of alcohol in heavy quantities.

Other factors such as age and history of heart disease may relate to the connection between atrial fibrillation and alcohol. The type of alcoholic beverage does not appear to determine whether or not a person will experience atrial fibrillation. In some cases, binge drinking has been associated with atrial fibrillation and alcohol.

The effects of atrial fibrillation and alcohol consumption could last for a long time or become a sinus rhythm, which is the normal rhythm of the heart, after one day. For some people, moderate drinking may also lead to this condition. Untreated damage to the heart from alcohol may eventually lead to more serious problems such as a stroke or heart attack.



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