A new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal finds that seniors with heart disease or diabetes have a greater risk of developing arrhythmia if they are even moderate drinkers, indicating that patients over 60 with a history of a heart attack, stroke, hardening of the arteries or Type 2 diabetes need to watch their alcohol consumption.
The findings are based on an analysis of data from two large trials, involving more than 30,000 adults in 40 countries, which aimed to study treatment regimens for the control of high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. Subjects had a median age of 66, and were followed for four and a half years on average.
The studies included questions that attempted to determine risk factors for atrial fibrillation, the most common form of arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat.
Among the low-level drinkers studied, there were approximately 14.5 cases of Atrial fibrillation per 1,000 people per year. In the group of moderate drinkers this rose to 17.3 cases, while in the heavy drinker group it reached 20.5. The researchers concluded that these differences in arrhythmia rates may be due to alcohol consumption.
Study author Dr. Koon Teo, a cardiologist that teaches medicine at Hamilton’s McMaster University, admits that the findings contradict what many doctors have been telling patients for years: that consumption of two drinks daily is good for your heart.
Dr. David Juurlink of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto stressed that when considering these findings, people needed to remember that this type of study can only identify associations, and cannot prove causation.