Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Liquor makes heart beat quicker

Puts older adults at risk for form of arrhythmia: study

  • Print

TORONTO -- Even moderate alcohol consumption may put older adults with heart disease or diabetes at risk of developing a common form of arrhythmia, a new study says.

The work suggests people who are in their 60s or beyond and who have had a heart attack, stroke, have hardening of the arteries or Type 2 diabetes should be careful about how much they drink.

One of the authors admitted Monday this message might be perplexing for people who have been told for years a daily drink or two may be good for heart health.

"It is in a way confusing because if I was 65 or 70, I'm used to having two drinks a day because my doctor says it's good; now this new study says 'You know, maybe it's not so good,' " said Dr. Koon Teo, a professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton.

But based on these findings, Koon, who is a cardiologist, said he would tell patients "two drinks or less may be better than two drinks or more."

The study was published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The findings are drawn from an analysis of data from two large trials designed to study treatment regimens for controlling high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. The studies enrolled a total of more than 30,000 adults in 40 countries. The median age of subjects was 66 and they were followed for 41/2 years on average.

Built into the design of the studies were questions aimed at trying to tease out risk factors for atrial fibrillation, the most common form of arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is a condition in which a sufferer's heartbeat is irregular.

People who suffer from atrial fibrillation often complain of the sensation their heart is racing, or they are dizzy or breathless, even when they aren't exerting themselves. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation estimates about 350,000 Canadians have atrial fibrillation.

The condition puts sufferers at risk of experiencing a stroke. In fact, people with atrial fibrillation are three to five times more likely to have a stroke than people who don't have the condition.

In this study, when moderate and heavy drinkers were compared to people who drank lightly, higher rates of atrial fibrillation were seen.

The researchers used standard measures to classify subjects as low, moderate or high drinkers. Low-level drinkers consume less than a drink a week. Moderate drinkers imbibe between one and 14 drinks a week for women and one to 21 for men. Heavy drinkers consume more than 14 and 21 drinks a week for women and men respectively.

Atrial fibrillation was seen at a rate of about 14.5 cases per 1,000 people per year in low-level drinkers. Among moderate drinkers, that rate rose to 17.3 cases and among heavy drinkers it was 20.5. If the researchers are correct in their conclusions, alcohol consumption may account for the differences in the rates.

The study also suggests binge drinking -- imbibing more than five drinks a day -- was associated with a higher risk of atrial fibrillation.

But Dr. David Juurlink, an internal medicine specialist at Toronto's Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, warned there is an important caveat people need to keep in mind in assessing the findings of this type of study, which can only identify associations. It cannot prove the one thing (moderate or heavy drinking) caused another (higher rates of atrial fibrillation), Juurlink said.

Only randomized controlled trials can prove causality. In those studies, people who are similar to each other in age, health status and other factors are divided into two groups. One gets an intervention, the other gets a placebo, and the results are compared.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 2, 2012 C11

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Weekend springtime weather with Doug Speirs - Apr 19

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005
  • Two baby tigers were unveiled at the Assiniboine Park Zoo this morning, October 3rd, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you agree with the suspensions levied against three bantam hockey players for abusing game officials?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google