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Binge drinking linked to first AF episodes

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Days when people consume more alcohol than normal are associated with more visits to A&E for atrial fibrillation (AF), new research has found.

Over a million people in the UK have AF and people with the condition are five times more likely to have a stroke.

The study is the first to show a link between increased drinking and hospital visits for AF in a large population.

It is also the first to link acute alcohol consumption with an increased incidence of new-onset AF in previously undiagnosed individuals.

Senior study author Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, a professor of medicine at UCSF and associate chief of cardiology for research at UCSF Health, said:

“Worldwide, alcohol is the most popularly consumed drug, and it now is clear that alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for atrial fibrillation.”

The researchers analysed 1,269,054 breath alcohol measurements from 36,158 people who used a commercially available breathalyser.

The data included individuals from all US states and 59 countries.

The breathalyser users consumed more alcohol than usual on New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Super Bowl Sunday, initiation of daylight-saving time, July 4, Christmas, FIFA World Cup and Father’s Day.

The researchers reviewed records California hospital emergency room visits from January 1, 2005 to December 30, 2015, and identified visits coded for a diagnosis of AF.

They found that there were significantly more hospital visits on the above days than any other days in the year.

In addition, there was even greater increase in hospital visits for AF among those not previously diagnosed with AF, in comparison to the increase in ER visits on these same days among the previously diagnosed with the condition.

The findings suggest that many new AF cases are triggered by acute alcohol consumption, Marcus said.

He added:

“This may be kind of a wake-up call for those individuals who have an identifiable trigger for their atrial fibrillation, who we might presume would be more highly motivated to avoid alcohol consumption and subsequently to experience a lowering of their atrial fibrillation risk.”

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