Evidence already exists to show that consuming too much alcohol boosts your risk of developing an irregular heartbeat.
And now scientists have found two glasses of wine a day is enough to damage the electrical signals which control the organ’s rhythm.
Researchers have now released images showing the difference between the hearts of non-drinkers and those who consume ‘moderate’ amounts.
These scans reveal the damage even moderate drinking can do to your heart – raising your risk of atrial fibrillation – a major cause of stroke
Scans showing how well electrical signals travel through part of the heart reveal larger areas of the non-drinker’s heart (left) appear red and yellow, meaning they are conducting more electricity, whereas the signals are not conducted as far through the moderate drinker’s heart (right), which has larger areas of blue where there is less electricity because of scarring.
Excessive boozing is known to be a risk factor of atrial fibrillation (an irregular, very fast heartbeat), but a new study has found that even moderate alcohol consumption can also result in damage.
Australian scientists have found that drinking as little as 14 glasses a week can result in scarring and disruption in electrical signalling, compared to teetotallers and light drinkers.
That’s led experts to conclude that moderate drinking is an important risk factor for AF – which is a major cause of stroke.
They analysed seven studies involving nearly 860,000 patients. Nearly 12.500 of those demonstrated an 8 per cent increase in AF with each additional daily drink.
A nondrinker’s heart
The scans show a non-drinker’s heart as entirely pink, which represents healthy tissue through which full-strength electric signals can flow.
Whereas the heart of what the scientists called a ‘moderate drinker’ has large patches of scarring shown in green, where electrical signals are weaker.
Their idea of moderate drinkers in the study were the people who had between eight and 21 alcoholic drinks per week – 14 on average.
However, 14 drinks per week is far more than the NHS’s recommended weekly limit of 14 units, which equates to nine glasses of wine or seven pints of beer.
The woman who is ‘allergic’ to alcohol
“This study underscores the importance of excessive alcohol consumption as an important risk factor in AF,” said lead investigator Professor Peter Kistler, from the Heart Centre, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.
Past studies of more than 800,000 people have discovered alcohol increases a person’s risk of developing an irregular heartbeat.
However, there has been a lack of studies explaining exactly how alcohol can affect electrical currents.
The new study, published in the journal HeartRhythm, offers an explanation and opens the door to further research.
Heavy drinking has become one of the biggest causes of severe illness among the baby boomer generation, official figures showed last year.
Alcohol is now the sixth most common cause of disability among people in their 50s and 60s, up from 16th in 1990, Public Health England data revealed.
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