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Atrial fibrillation: Link between binge drinking and fatal heart condition

06-23 | By CSAA Team

Atrial fibrillation: Link between binge drinking and fatal heart condition

A flutter in the heart is often associated with love. Another condition that causes a feeling of lightness in the heart and is responsible for palpitations is atrial fibrillation (AF). As this condition arises after a bout of heavy drinking during holidays, it is nicknamed as the holiday heart syndrome (HHS).

In the United States, the emergency room (ER) visits have increased steadily by 24 percent between 2006-2011 while the average admission rate of people complaining of AF rose to 65 percent, a study reported at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in 2014. These emergency conditions were characterized by irregular heart beat or palpitations which are commonly caused after a session of heavy drinking during holidays. Binge drinking occurs when one has more than five drinks on a single night and the act can be fatal than slow drinking over a period of time.

It is generally thought that a drink a day is good for heart health but if one follows the golden rules of drinking i.e. never more than 12 ounces of alcohol in a drink and certainly never more than 3 drinks a session. During holidays and festive times, there is a tendency to indulge in binge drinking without realizing that it is just as bad as chronic alcoholism. It’s after effects include impaired cognitive thinking, blackout and in some cases stroke.

Atrial fibrillation is common to both non-drinkers and chronic alcoholics although the incidence of cardiac arrest arising from AF is significantly higher among chronic drinkers. In a study, Alcohol and Atrial Fibrillation: A Sobering review, it was found that the frequency of habitual drinkers was the same as non-drinkers. Other significant observations of the study were related to the existence of comorbidities such as obesity and hypertension which had a significant impact on AF.

Damaging effects of atrial fibrillation

AF causes a significant damage to heart health in chronic drinkers. Drinkers with other comorbidities of physical illnesses like hypertension, obesity and diabetes are at high risk and the chances of a cardiac arrest are significantly high.

The heart is the strongest and most powerful muscle in the body. It receives electrical signals that direct it to pump blood to the minute arteries and veins in the body. During an episode of AF, the heart quivers. It is quite normal for clots to form during the phase of AF. In case a clot enters into the tiny arteries leading to the brain, it can precipitate a stroke. Another heart condition called cardiomyopathy is also possible. It is caused when the muscles of the heart become thick, enlarged or rigid and as the condition worsens, they become weak and are unable to contract as desired. Cardiomyopathy is an irreversible condition and can be contained only if one gives up alcohol completely. It can sometimes result in heart failure.

Though generally not a severe condition, AF should nevertheless be taken seriously and medical help should be sought with immediate priority. Though it is temporary in case of non-drinkers, it has the tendency to recur in case of subsequent abuse. In chronic or heavy drinkers, AF could be a sign of a larger malaise.

Road to recovery

Timely treatment and diagnosis of alcohol addiction are important for preventing it from causing further damage to the body. AF is one of the warning signs of an impending heart damage and it is imperative that one takes action in time to prevent further deterioration through alcohol abuse.

If you know someone who is seeking help for alcohol addiction, the Colorado Substance Abuse Advisors representatives can suggest some of the best substance abuse treatment centers in Colorado. There are several Inpatient substance abuse treatment centers in Colorado that provide intensive care and treatment to help people recover from addiction. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-300-5857 or chat online to know more.


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