Dr. Gregory M. Marcus, an electrophysiologist at the University of California, San Francisco gave a presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society about the effect of alcohol on the heart in younger people. This convention took place at the Colorado Convention Center at Denver/Co. where from May 9 to 12, 2007 about 11,000 physicians and scientists gathered to discuss the newest in irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and new treatments. Dr. Marcus found that in persons younger than 60 years of age one alcoholic drink per day could lead to atrial fibrillation (=atrial fib) or to atrial flutter. He found in persons older than 60 years he was not able to show a statistically significant risk effect of alcohol, but he pointed out that in this older population there were other risks like older age by itself and hypertension, both of which were independent risk factors for atrial fib/atrial flutter.
This was a case study where 195 consecutive patients with atrial fib/atrial flutter were studied. 2/3 of them were 60 or younger. There were also 185 controls with 75% who had supraventricular arrhythmias and 25% with healthy hearts. There was a linear dose-response curve between number of alcoholic drinks consumed per day and atrial flutter. With atrial fibrillation there was a tendency in this way, but it had not reached quite statistical significance. This study is the first one to show that in the younger age group there is sensitivity, at least in those who came down with atrial fib or atrial flutter, of the conductive nerve fibers in the atrial wall tissue to the effects of alcohol. Alcohol seems to reduce the effective refractory period of atrial tissue. Dr. Marcus called this the arrhythmogenic effect of alcohol.
It is not clear at the present time how to balance the cardioprotective effect of moderate alcohol intake against this newly found arrhythmogenic effect. Also, why would the younger age group be more vulnerable to this effect than the older generation? Is there perhaps a subpopulation of more sensitive patients? These are unanswered questions, but at any rate it is important that those who had atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter refrain from alcohol, as they have shown to be especially sensitive to this arrhythmogenic effect.
More information about irregular heart beats: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/irregular-heart-beats/
Reference: Dr. Gregory M. Marcus at the Annual Meeting of the Heart Rhythm Society
Last edited November 3, 2014