Many of us look forward to relaxing with a tipple in the evening.
But just one small glass of wine or a beer a day can increase the risk of a life-threatening irregular heartbeat, research suggests.
People who drank every day were 17 per cent more likely to develop atrial fibrillation (AF), a common heart condition that causes an abnormally fast pulse.
And the risk soared by 28 and 47 per cent for those who had up to two – or more than four drinks – respectively.
© Provided by Daily Mail Just one small glass of wine or a beer a day can increase the risk of a life-threatening irregular heartbeat, research suggests (file image)
Symptoms of AF include chronic breathlessness, dizziness and the inability to carry out simple chores. It affects around one million in the UK and can trigger a stroke if left untreated. The study, published in the European Heart Journal, looked at the drinking habits of 108,000 people aged 24 to 97 over eight years. During a follow-up period of 14 years, almost 6,000 developed AF.
Lead author Professor Renate Schnabel said: ‘In our study, we can now demonstrate that even very low regular alcohol consumption may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation.’ The research adds to growing evidence there is no safe level of drinking and could lead to a rethink on official advice.
Professor Schnabel, a consultant cardiologist at the University Heart and Vascular Centre Hamburg, said: ‘The regular consumption of alcohol, the “one glass of wine a day” to protect the heart, is often recommended, for instance. It should probably no longer be suggested without balancing risks and possible benefits for all heart and blood vessel diseases, including atrial fibrillation.’
One drink was equivalent to a small glass of wine (120ml), a small beer (330ml) or a shot of spirits (40ml). The association between AF and drink was similar for all types of alcohol – and for men and women. Heavy drinkers are known to be much more prone to heart failure, which can trigger AF.
© Provided by Daily Mail Heavy drinkers are known to be much more prone to heart failure, which can trigger AF (file image)
Binge drinking can set off temporary rhythm problems – a phenomenon doctors have dubbed ‘holiday heart syndrome’ as it often happens when people are off work.
Commenting on the study, Dr Jorge Wong and Professor David Conen, of the Population Health Research Institute, near Toronto, said: ‘This data suggests lowering alcohol consumption may be important for both prevention and management of AF.
‘Importantly, any reduction in low-to-moderate alcohol consumption to potentially prevent AF needs to be balanced with the potentially beneficial association low amounts of alcohol may have with respect to other cardiovascular outcomes.’
AF patients are at increased risk of stroke as it can trigger clots that cut off blood supply to the brain.
It comes the day after a study suggested choosing wine over beer or spirits is healthier and can reduce your risk of death. Drinkers of spirits had a 25 per cent increased risk of death and a 31 per cent higher risk of major cardiovascular events compared to those who mainly drank wine, Glasgow University researchers found.