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Atrial Fibrillation Health Center

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Does Alcohol Cause AFib?

A glass of wine with dinner is good for your heart, right? Many studies suggest that light or moderate drinking can cut your risk of heart disease and stroke.

But drinking certain kinds of alcohol every day can raise your chances of getting atrial fibrillation (AFib), a heart condition that makes your heart beat really fast and off-rhythm. AFib can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart conditions.

Recommended Related to Atrial Fibrillation

How Do New Blood Thinners Compare to Warfarin?

Not too long ago, if your doctor said you needed a blood thinner to prevent a stroke, you didn't have to think too hard about it. Warfarin (Coumadin) was the only way to go. But not anymore. With four other medications to pick from, you'll have to do a little homework to figure out what's best for you. "It's not a one-size-fits-all choice," says Bruce Lindsay, MD, from Cleveland Clinic. A lot depends on your overall health and your lifestyle.

Read the How Do New Blood Thinners Compare to Warfarin? article > >

So it's important to weigh the risks. Talk to your doctor about your health history and what makes the most sense for you.

More Alcohol Means More Risk

A recent study found a strong link between drinking one to three drinks a day (what doctors consider moderate) and getting AFib. Oddly enough, that was true for people who drink wine and liquor, but not beer.

Heavy drinking, or more than three drinks a day, bumps up your risk. And it seems to keep going up the more you have. Studies suggest that for every extra daily drink, your risk goes up by 8%.

You don't have to drink regularly, either. Binge drinking, or having more than five drinks in a row, also makes getting AFib more likely. People in these studies drank wine or hard liquor. It's not clear if beer has the same effect.

How Much Is Safe?

After you've been diagnosed, it's OK to have an adult beverage, as long as you don't drink too much. Keep in mind that different drinks have different levels of alcohol. A single shot of hard liquor may have the same amount of alcohol as two glasses of wine.

One to three drinks a day probably won't lead to health problems, even when you already have AFib. More than three drinks a day, though, can trigger an episode.

If you're taking blood thinners, alcohol can raise your risk of bleeding. It can also be a problem if you take drugs that reduce blood clotting, like warfarin or acenocoumarol.

Don't Drink Every Day

Even if you drink moderately, experts suggest you take a few days off from drinking alcohol every week.

  • Limit yourself to one to two drinks a day.
  • Try to have 2 to 3 alcohol-free days every week.
  • Stop drinking if you have an episode of AFib within an hour of drinking alcohol.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on October 03, 2014

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