AlcoholismDid you know alcohol consumption and age may increase the risk of stroke if you have a heart rhythm disorder?

A new study finds people with atrial fibrillation having an increase of risk of stroke, especially if they practice excessive alcohol consumption.

Dr. Faris Al-Khalili, leader of the study and cardiologist at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, said, “Doctors should ask their [atrial fibrillation] patients about alcohol use and advise patients to cut down if they are drinking more than is recommended.”

Over 25,000 Swedish adults, ages 18-64 with atrial fibrillation joined the study although their conditions weren’t related to valve problems. This disease alone increases the odds of stroke because of additional risk factors, but they are at low risk for ischemic stroke.

After five years, the researchers followed up and found two factors significantly associated with increased stroke risk; alcohol-related hospitalization, with doubled risk, and age.

According to the study presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Rome, the use of blood-thinning medication associated with a lower risk. Al-Khalili stated in a society news release, “Even though these patients are classified as low-risk, the incidence of ischemic stroke in our study population is neither negligible nor ignorable, and it carries a relatively high mortality.”

He then added, “Our study found that alcohol is an independent risk factor for stroke in patients with [atrial fibrillation].”

It’s unclear how the relationship between alcohol and stroke works because the study was purely observational. This means it can’t prove a direct cause and effect relationship.

There’s a chance alcohol might induce atrial fibrillation leading to stroke, but there could also be a particular alcohol induced effect causing cerebral or systemic clots, as suggested by the researchers.

Al-Khalili further stated, “Using alcohol-related hospitalization as a proxy for alcohol abuse likely underestimates the extent of the problem, and does not allow grading of the amount of alcohol consumed.”

He suggests scientists do more research on the beneficial link between stroke and blood thinners especially on the benefits and harms such as bleeding.

Hopefully, more research conducted in the near future will shine a light this subject and improve the lives of individuals experiencing atrial fibrillation.