HOLIDAY Monitors Study: Alcohol Consumption Increases Risk for AFib and AFib Events

New research suggests that alcohol consumption is associated with a rapid increase in the risk for atrial fibrillation (AFib) and AFib events, new research at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Session (ACC.21) suggests.

“Alcohol is the most commonly consumed drug in the world, and there is still a lot we don’t understand about what it does to our bodies and, in particular, our hearts,” said lead author Gregory M. Marcus, MD, cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, in a news release. According to the research, a single glass of wine, beer, or other beverage, are linked with a significant increase in the risk of having AFib or an AFib event within the 4 hours following the alcohol consumption.

The study included 100 patients (average age, 64; 85% white; 80% male) with paroxysmal or intermittent AFib and fitted them with wearable heart monitors and ankle sensors to detect when more than two or three drinks were consumed in a sitting. Participants pressed a button on the monitor when they had an alcoholic drink, with blood tests used as corroboration for self-reported drinking incidents.

The results indicated that more than half of the patients (56%) had an AFib episode during the study period. One drink of alcohol was associated with six-fold increase in the odds of experiencing and AFib event within the next 4 hours (OR=6.5; 95% CI, 1.9 to 14.8, P<0.001), and two or more drinks were associated with 20-fold higher odds of experiencing and AFib event (OR=19.6; 95% CI, 1.9 to 206.6; P=0.013).

“There is conventional wisdom that alcohol is ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ for the heart, based on observational studies, but that relates to coronary heart disease and heart attack,” Marcus added. “These new data present an interesting conundrum regarding the overall risks versus benefits of alcohol in moderation. But the data are very clear that more is not better when it comes to alcohol; those who drink more have a higher risk of heart attack and death.”


Margus G. Acute Alcohol Consumption and Discrete Atrial Fibrillation Events. Presented at: American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions; May 15-17, 2021.