Scores of studies have shown that drinking alcohol in excess leads to health issues and can even shorten your lifespan. If you’re consuming 14 to 15 drinks per week, according to a study published in The Lancet, you could be abbreviating your life by one to two years. Twenty-five drinks or more per week? You could shorten your life by as much as five years. But according to a new study just published in the European Heart Journal, heavier drinkers aren’t the only ones putting their lives potentially critically at risk.
The research team, which examined the drinking habits and heart health of more than 107,000 Europeans between the ages of 24 and 97 starting in the year 1982, found that those who drink just one “small” alcoholic drink per day significantly raised their risk of developing an irregular heartbeat‚ or “atrial fibrillation.“ This condition is linked with not only dizziness and heart palpitations but also with a higher risk of stroke.
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The researchers defined a “small” alcoholic beverage as one that contains 12g of ethanol, which translates into a 330ml of beer (less than your typical 12-ounce can), 120ml of wine (roughly eight tablespoons), and 40ml of spirits (2.7 tablespoons). According to the study, participants who imbibed that much daily were 16 percent more likely than non-drinkers to experience an irregular heartbeat. Those who drank two drinks per day had a 28 percent greater risk of atrial fibrillation, and those who drank more than four drinks per day put themselves at a 47 percent greater risk.
“These findings are important as the regular consumption of alcohol, the ‘one glass of wine a day’ to protect the heart, as is often recommended for instance in the lay press, should probably no longer be suggested without balancing risks and possible benefits for all heart and blood vessel diseases, including atrial fibrillation,” the researchers write.
The researchers say that they can’t say for certain why alcohol may be linked to this heart condition. “The exact mechanisms by which modest amounts of alcohol could trigger atrial fibrillation are not known,” they write. “Studies have shown that heavy drinking over a short period of time can trigger ‘holiday heart syndrome’ in some people, and in some atrial fibrillation patients, small amounts of alcohol can trigger arrhythmia episodes.”
They also note that the study did face some limitations, including the fact that study participants may have underreported the quantity of their alcohol intake. And for more news that applies to your health, make sure you’re up to speed on The Single Worst Alcoholic Drink for Your Body, According to Experts.
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