Holiday drinking and heart disease

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 3, 2005

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Heavy alcohol consumption -- 35 or more drinks per week -- can significantly increase men's risk of developing atrial fibrillation, according to a large study published in the Sept. 13 Circulation.

Risk of this rapid, irregular heartbeat was as much as 45% higher among heavy drinkers than abstainers. The findings also support what has become known as the holiday heart syndrome. "Since our research found that the risk of developing atrial fibrillation begins to increase at about four drinks per day, and clearly goes up at five drinks per day, this would seem to confirm what has long been suspected regarding periods of significant alcohol consumption, like during vacations," said Kenneth J. Mukamal, MD, MPH, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

The researchers used information from the Copenhagen City Heart Study in Denmark, obtained from 16,415 individuals with an average age of 50. They controlled for smoking, education, income, physical activity, body mass index and diabetes. Few women in the study were heavy drinkers, so conclusions could be drawn only for men.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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