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Binge drinking during sporting events and holidays may trigger A-fib

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San Francisco — Chicken wings and chili aren’t the only potential overindulgences to be careful about on Super Bowl Sunday. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, are warning that excessive alcohol consumption during major sporting events and holidays may increase your risk of an episode of atrial fibrillation – an abnormal heart rhythm that can trigger serious health problems.

The researchers analyzed data from more than 36,000 people from all 50 U.S. states and 59 countries whose breath alcohol concentration was tracked via Bluetooth-enabled breathalyzer tests. Findings show that the participants drank more alcohol on eight national holidays/events or dates that coincided with major televised sporting events: New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July, Christmas, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Father’s Day, the beginning of daylight saving time, the FIFA World Cup and Super Bowl Sunday.

The researchers then examined data from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development, identifying emergency room visits related to a-fib coded between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 30, 2015. After comparing the data for the weeks associated with increased alcohol consumption with other weeks of the year, the researchers found a “significantly elevated number of hospital visits” for a-fib occurred around the eight previously identified holidays/events, according to a UCSF press release.


“Our new data suggest that acute alcohol consumption in the general population is associated with a higher risk of an episode of atrial fibrillation, including a higher risk for a first episode of atrial fibrillation among individuals never previously diagnosed with the condition,” Gregory Marcus, senior study author and UCSF professor of medicine, said in the release. “Worldwide, alcohol is the most popularly consumed drug, and it now is clear that alcohol consumption is an important risk factor for atrial fibrillation.”

The study was published online Jan. 12 in the journal Nature Cardiovascular Research.

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