Hands holding glasses with beer on a table

Drinking alcohol makes your heart beat faster

Drinking a glass or two of alcohol regularly is such an integral part of modern day culture.

And binge drinking has become a thing to do on the weekends.

Binge drinking has been associated with atrial fibrillation, a phenomenon called “the holiday heart syndrome.”

The scientists speculate that alcohol creates and imbalance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems.

Atrial fibrillation is a type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) of your heart and this connection between binge drinking and abnormal heart beat was initially based on small studies and anecdotal evidence from the late 1970s.

To investigate this association researchers from the LMU University Hospital Munich Department of Cardiology supported by the German Cardiovascular Research Centre (DZHK) and the European Commission conducted a study which included more than 3000 people attending the 2015 Munich Oktoberfest.

This was the first assessment of the acute effect of alcohol drinking on electrocardiogram (ECG) readings.

During the Oktoberfest, the scientists took breath and alcohol concentrations readings and also measured ECG of the participants. The average age of the participants was 35 years old and 30 percent were women.

Age, sex, heart medications, heart disease and smoking status were recorded.

The average breath alcohol concentration was 0.85 g/kg. Increasing breath alcohol concentration was significantly linked to sinus tachycardia of more than 100 beats per minute in 25.9 percent of the participants.

The scientists analysed quantitative ECG in 3012 participants and investigated the association between blood alcohol concentration and four ECG parameters: excitation (heart rate), conduction (PR interval, QRS complex), and repolarisation (QT interval).

The researchers found that an increased heart rate was associated with higher breath alcohol consumption. Consumption of alcohol had no effect on the other parameters.

The scientists speculate that alcohol creates an imbalance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems.

The scientists are currently investigating how alcohol has this effect and if increased heart rate with alcohol consumption can lead to rhythm disorders in the long-term.

This study was conducted on healthy and young participants but if it was conducted on older people or heart patients the associations might have been different.

The study summarises that alcohol consumption increases the heart rate – so the more you drink the higher your heart rate will be. Although it cannot be concluded yet if this is harmful for your health.

People with heart conditions already have a higher heart rate which in many cases triggers arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation. So it is quite possible that the higher heart rate due to alcohol consumption could lead to arrhythmias.

In the end, it’s important to pay attention to the particular problems of your own heart health and know the effect that alcohol can have on you.

Source: European Society of Cardiology.

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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