Drinking alcohol makes your heart race

March 18, 2018, European Society of Cardiology
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The more alcohol you drink, the higher your heart rate gets, according to research presented today at EHRA 2018 Congress, organized by the European Society of Cardiology.

Binge drinking has been linked with , a phenomenon called "the holiday syndrome". The connection was initially based on small studies and anecdotal evidence from the late 1970s.

The Munich Beer Related Electrocardiogram Workup (MunichBREW) study was conducted by researchers from the LMU University Hospital Munich Department of Cardiology, supported by the German Cardiovascular Research Centre (DZHK) and the European Commission. It was the first assessment of the acute effects of alcohol on electrocardiogram (ECG) readings. The study included more than 3,000 people attending the 2015 Munich Oktoberfest.

ECG readings were taken and breath alcohol concentrations were measured. Age, sex, heart disease, heart medications, and smoking status were recorded. Participants were, on average, 35 years old and 30% were women. The average breath alcohol concentration was 0.85 g/kg. Increasing breath alcohol concentration was significantly associated with sinus tachycardia of more than 100 beats per minute in 25.9% of the cohort.

The current analysis of the MunichBREW study looked in more detail at the quantitative ECG measurements in 3,012 participants. The researchers investigated the association between and four ECG parameters: excitation (), conduction (PR interval, QRS complex), and repolarisation (QT interval).

Increased heart rate was associated with higher breath alcohol concentration, confirming the initial results of the MunichBREW study. The association was linear, with no threshold. Alcohol consumption had no effect on the other three parameters.

"The more alcohol you drink, the higher your heart rate gets," said Dr Stefan Brunner, a cardiologist at the University Hospital Munich, Munich, Germany, who is one of the lead authors.

The researchers are currently investigating whether the increase in heart rate with alcohol consumption could lead to heart rhythm disorders in the longer-term.

Dr Moritz Sinner, another lead author, said: "We cannot yet conclude that a higher heart rate induced by alcohol is harmful. But people with heart conditions already have a higher heart rate, which in many cases triggers arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation. So it is plausible that the higher heart rate following could lead to arrhythmias."

He added, "Most people in our study were young and healthy. If we conducted the same study in older people or heart patients we might have found an association between drinking alcohol and arrhythmias."

The authors speculated that creates an imbalance between the sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. They are currently investigating how it does this.

Explore further: Link between alcohol consumption and cardiac arrhythmias

More information: The abstract 'Acute alcohol consumption and effects on cardiac excitation, conduction, and repolarization. Results from the MunichBREW Study' will be presented during the session Arrhythmias general - The unusual and unexpected which takes place on 18 March.

Related Stories

Link between alcohol consumption and cardiac arrhythmias

April 25, 2017
Researchers who studied beer drinkers at the Munich Octoberfest have found that the more alcohol consumed the higher was the likelihood of developing abnormal heart rhythms called cardiac arrhythmias.

Moderate alcohol consumption tied to lower heart failure risk

October 16, 2017
(HealthDay)—Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk of heart failure but not atrial fibrillation (AF), according to a study published online Oct. 11 in JACC: Heart Failure.

One-third of people believe alcohol is heart-healthy

August 7, 2015
(HealthDay)—Approximately one-third of the public believes alcohol is heart-healthy, according to a study published in the Aug. 15 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Moderate alcohol use linked to heart chamber damage, atrial fibrillation in new study

September 28, 2016
Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a nightcap before bed, but don't count on their heart benefits.

Avoiding alcohol helps the heart beat better

October 19, 2017
(HealthDay)—The longer you refrain from drinking, the lower your risk of a common heart rhythm disorder.

Even moderate, habitual alcohol consumption can cause irregular heartbeat

December 5, 2016
Often people who binge drink experience an irregular heartbeat or a heart "flutter," sometimes referred to as "holiday heart syndrome." However, people who drink smaller amounts of alcohol on a regular basis are also at higher ...

Recommended for you

Infections could trigger stroke in pregnant women during hospital delivery

April 20, 2018
Pregnant women who have an infection when they enter the hospital for delivery might be at higher risk of having a stroke during their stay, according to new research.

Compound improves stroke outcome by reducing lingering inflammation

April 20, 2018
An experimental compound appears to improve stroke outcome by reducing the destructive inflammation that can continue months after a stroke, scientists report.

Changing how blood pressure is measured will save lives

April 19, 2018
Traditional methods of testing for high-blood pressure are no longer adequate and risk missing vital health signs, which can lead to premature death, a study co-led by UCL has found.

Eyes of adolescents could reveal risk of cardiovascular disease

April 19, 2018
New research has found that poorer well-being or 'health-related quality of life' (HRQoL) in adolescence could be an indicator of future cardiovascular disease risk.

Comparing strategies to guide blood pressure treatment

April 18, 2018
A strategy that examines a patient's overall heart disease and stroke risk to determine blood pressure treatment—rather than blood pressure levels alone—is more effective at preventing events like heart attacks, strokes ...

Obesity linked with higher chance of developing rapid, irregular heart rate

April 18, 2018
People with obesity are more likely to develop a rapid and irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation, which can lead to stroke, heart failure and other complications, according to Penn State researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.