Seoul - Researchers have found that 14 drinks a week is linked with a higher risk of health problems including stroke and embolism in patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib).
"Our study suggests that atrial fibrillation patients should avoid heavy alcohol consumption to prevent stroke and other complications," said study author Dr Boyoung Joung from the Yonsei University in the Republic of Korea.
The study, published in the journal EP Europace, included 9,411 patients with atrial fibrillation from 18 tertiary hospitals covering all geographical regions of South Korea.
Patients were categorised into four groups according to their weekly alcohol consumption: abstainer/rare, light, moderate and heavy (14 drinks or more).
A total of 7,455 (79.2 per cent) patients were classified as abstainer/rare, 795 (8.4 per cent) as light, 345 (3.7 per cent) as moderate, and 816 (8.7 per cent) as heavy alcohol consumption.
Patients were followed-up for a median of 17.4 months for adverse events, which included stroke, transient ischaemic attack, systemic embolism (a blood clot in a limb or organ), and hospitalisation for rate or rhythm control of atrial fibrillation or for heart failure management.
The researchers recorded how many patients experienced any of these events and calculated the incident rate (number of events per 100 person-years).
Incident rates were 6.73, 5.77, 6.44, and 9.65 in the abstainer/rare, light, moderate, and heavy drinkers, respectively.
The researchers compared the risk of adverse events in the light, moderate, and heavy drinkers to the abstainer/rare group.
Heavy drinking was associated with a 32 per cent increased risk compared with the abstainers and rare drinkers. No significant association was observed for light or moderate alcohol consumption.
"Our study did not find any significant association between light or moderate drinking and complications. A significant deleterious relationship with heavy drinking was identified, suggesting that heavy alcohol consumption should be avoided," Joung said.
Subgroup analyses showed that the impact of heavy drinking was more pronounced in patients with low stroke risk compared to those at moderate or high stroke risk.
Similarly, heavy drinking was associated with a greater likelihood of unfavourable outcomes in patients without high blood pressure compared to those with high blood pressure.
"While heavy drinking should be strongly discouraged among atrial fibrillation patients, moderate drinking seems to be safe," the authors wrote. (IANS)