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Excessive drinking makes people with arrhythmia prone to stroke

Drinking alcohol has been linked to many physiological problems. Though moderate drinking was once touted to be beneficial for good health in the long run, excessive drinking is not. A new study warns the elderly afflicted with a common heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation against heavy drinking habits. Scientists say that excessive drinking may raise the risk of such people suffering from stroke.

The findings pursuant to a study titled, “Alcohol-related hospitalization associated with doubled stroke risk in atrial fibrillation: Stroke and arrhythmia: Life or death” were shared at the annual European Society of Cardiology on August 27, 2016. Explaining the observations of the research, lead author of the study Dr. Faris Al-Khalili, a cardiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden said, “Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disturbance and is associated with a five-fold increased risk of ischemic stroke. Doctors should ask their AF patients about alcohol use and advise patients to cut down if they are drinking more than is recommended.”

Alcohol-related hospitalization and age aggravate risk of stroke

The researchers observed more than 25,000 Swedish adults between 18 and 64 years of age suffering from AF not related to valve problems. Patients with AF problems are more prone to suffer from stroke. A follow-up of the respondents for nearly five years revealed two factors significantly linked to an aggravated risk of stroke. Scientists listed alcohol-related hospitalization and age as two major conditions which placed people with AF at a major risk of suffering from stroke. The scientists also indicated that administering blood thinning medication to such people could help alleviate their risk of stroke.

Though the study was observational and a cause-and-effect association between drinking habits of AF people and risk of stroke could not be pointed out, Al-Khalili emphasized the presence of alcohol in the body as an independent risk factor for stroke in patients with AF. Based on the observations of the research, the authors of the study suggested that AF might be induced due to alcohol resulting in stroke while indicating that systemic or cerebral clots could be  a result of specific alcohol effect. The authors also pinpointed that further research needs to be carried out on how use of blood-thinning medications could avert the risk of stroke in such patients.

Abstaining from heavy drinking habits

The direct and indirect effects of alcohol claim lives of thousands each year. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 30,700 Americans  lost their lives to the indirect impact of alcohol, in 2014 alone. While the U.S. continues to grapple with its drug and opioid addiction problems, the necessity of declaring alcohol as an addictive  substance has been overlooked.

The study emphasized  the need for doctors to inquire of their AF patients about their drinking habits, level of drinking and advise them accordingly.

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