More than 9,000 patients with atrial fibrillation from 18 tertiary hospitals treating all geographical regions of South Korea were involved in the research. Patients were placed into four categories based on how much alcohol they drank each week: abstainer/rare for less than one drink, light for seven drinks, moderate for seven-14 drinks and heavy for at least 14 drinks.
The majority of patients — 79.2% — were in the abstainer/rare category while 8.7% were heavy drinkers, 8.4% were considered light and 3.7% deemed moderate.
Within an average of 17.4 months, researchers followed up with patients for adverse effects, which included stroke, a blood clot in an organ or limb and hospitalization for heart failure management among them. Researchers tracked how many patients who had these effects and took calculations of their incident rate.
The incident rates were 6.73 for abstainer/rare, 5.77 for light, 6.44 for moderate and 9.65 for heavy drinkers. Adverse effects were tabulated for each category.
“Our study did not find any significant association between light or moderate drinking and complications,” Joung said. “A significant deleterious relationship with heavy drinking was identified, suggesting that heavy alcohol consumption should be avoided.”
In particular, atrial fibrillation patients had a significant risk of harm from drinking heavily.
“The findings indicate that heavy drinking is particularly detrimental for atrial fibrillation patients who are considered less vulnerable to complications. Clinicians should ask patients about their alcohol consumption and take it into account when calculating their stroke risk,” Joung said. “While heavy drinking should be strongly discouraged among atrial fibrillation patients, moderate drinking seems to be safe.”