A new study demonstrated that atrial myopathy, evaluated by echocardiographic measurement of the left atrial diameter, is able to link chronic alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation.
Despite the general belief that moderate alcohol consumption has a beneficial effect on cardiovascular diseases, several studies have shown that a chronic consumption of 2 or more drinks per day is associated with a 30% higher risk of atrial fibrillation. This disease involves an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and affects approximately 350,000 Canadians. Stroke is one of the main complications of atrial fibrillation and the risk is 3 to 5 times greater than in the general population.
A recent clinical study by a group of American researchers tries to understand the mechanism underlying the relationship between alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation. They followed more than 5,000 subjects, without a history of cardiovascular diseases, for 6 years (median) and evaluated their left atrial diameter at different times.
Results published in the Journal of the American Heart Association confirmed the association between alcohol consumption and atrial fibrillation. Their findings suggest that the link between alcohol and atrial fibrillation is the pathological atrial remodeling and can be quantified by echocardiographic measurement of the left atrial diameter.
In conclusion, alcohol seems to be both beneficial and a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and therefore needs to be taken into account in the evaluation of a patient’s condition. It is also important to consider other cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, smoking, and sedentary lifestyle.
Written By: Jean-Michel Bourget, PhD