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Food: This Much Alcohol Raises Heart Palpitation Risk

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It's just a beer or a glass of wine, right? Maybe… but, according to an important new study, that drink could lead to serious health consequences for some individuals. Read what happened when researchers fitted study participants with both alcohol sensors and electrocardiogram monitors for four weeks. The results bring to question some previous beliefs about the effects of alcohol on your heart health.

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Atrial fibrillation—commonly called "AFib"—is the medical term for an irregular heartbeat that may be rooted in the cellular level of the heart. Atrial fibrillation can lead to small amounts of scarring in the heart's fibrous tissue, and, in serious cases, may lead to heart attack. The American Heart Association says that if the condition recurs over time, AFib also has the chance to lead to heart failure, stroke, clotting, or other serious conditions.

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With the potential complications of atrial fibrillation in mind, a group of U.S.-based researchers specializing in cardiology, epidemiology, and behavioral health gathered 100 participants for a study just published in the peer-reviewed Annals of Internal Medicine. Seventy-nine of the 100 participants were male, their mean age was 64 years, and 85% were white. Fifty-six of them had experienced at least one episode of atrial fibrillation prior to the study.

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For four weeks, the participants wore an electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor and a sensor that detected alcohol through the skin. Each time they consumed an alcoholic beverage, participants self-reported their intake by pushing an indicator on the ECG. Blood tests were also employed to confirm blood-alcohol levels.

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At the conclusion of the study, the researchers determined that a single alcoholic drink had doubled the risk of an atrial fibrillation event. Meanwhile, two drinks within a four-hour period raised the risk of AFib by three.

Lead author Gregory Marcus MD, MAS, professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of California at San Francisco, suggests this study may refute two commonly held beliefs about alcohol consumption: That regular alcohol intake is beneficial for the heart, and that it takes a lot of alcohol to produce negative cardiological effects. Those may not be so, he says.

On the upside, Marcus said this study may offer encouraging insight on preventing unwanted cardiac conditions. "Our results show that the occurrence of atrial fibrillation might be neither random nor unpredictable," Marcus said in a statement. "Instead, there may be identifiable and modifiable ways of preventing an acute heart arrhythmia episode."

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You should always speak with your doctor about any questions related to your health. For reference only, just a few possible symptoms of atrial fibrillation may be a detectable palpitation, shortness of breath, or fainting.

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Non-Alcoholic Beer Was a Game-Changer for Me. Why Is It Still So Controversial in Recovery Communities? .
Attitudes about sobriety are changing.That literal wake-up call prompted me to make a change, and a few months later, the concert was my chance to prove that I had gotten my drinking under control. The confidence I had in my new sobriety was shaky, so I paid a hefty concession stand price for a bottle of non-alcoholic beer. When I couldn’t find a cup to hide the fact that I wasn’t drinking real beer, I tried moving the label underneath my hand and held the bottle below my hip. Despite my careful trickery, one of my friends shouted, “Are you drinking NEAR BEER?!” with an incredulity that still haunts me. The jig was up. I’d been found out.

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