A new German study has strengthened the link between binge drinking and cardiac arrhythmia. Study results on the matter were released earlier this week. They were published in the European Heart Journal.
People work hard all week, and they want to play hard on the weekend. Quite a few college students alone exhibit patterns of binge drinking, and, for many, it’s a behavior that continues into adulthood. Unfortunately, partying too hard doesn’t do the heart any favors.
How is binge drinking linked to irregular heart rhythm?
“Holiday heart syndrome” in which alcohol triggers arrhythmia in otherwise healthy people, is a known medical phenomenon. This recent study was conducted by Stefan Brunner, MD, Moritz F. Sinner, MD, MPH, and colleagues during Oktoberfest. It is the first to track heart activity in participants who were actively drinking.
Study volunteers were asked to wear a smartphone-based ECG device to track their heart rhythm during the festival. Out of about 3,000 people, over 1,000 experienced an irregular heart rhythm at some point during the festival. Sinus tachycardia accounted for about 26% of cases.
But how much does the risk of arrhythmia actually increase as one binge drinks? In the general public, only between 1-4% of people experience arrhythmia. These study findings demonstrate a correlation between alcohol consumption and a dramatically increased risk of irregular heartbeats.
The team’s results were described as showing “a profound association of acute alcohol consumption with sinus tachycardia or increased heart rate with no justification.”
As it is, the study team will now look to quantify the longer-term effects on binge drinking on the heart through a new study. Researchers also found that the risk was quantifiable — for every gram of alcohol per kilogram of blood that the study participants consumed, the drinker’s risk of experiencing arrhythmia rose by 75%.
Though the link between alcohol and an irregular heart rhythm has been known to medical science for decades, this is the first study to observe the cardiac effects of alcohol immediately. Some experts argue that the findings are unimportant with respect to treating arrhythmia in a clinical setting. But this new research does shed more light on the link between drinking habits and heart health.
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