Heavy drinking men at higher risk of heart flutter

Last updated at 09:02 12 October 2004

Heavy drinking men may have an increased risk of suffering an irregular heartbeat, new research shows.

Researchers studied almost 50,000 men and women in Denmark, taking note of their alcohol intake and general health.

While the risk of suffering from atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter increased along with alcohol intake in men, there was no evidence of a link in women, the team said.

Heart flutter

Earlier this month Prime Minister Tony Blair had treatment after being diagnosed with atrial flutter.

After undergoing the catheter ablation technique, doctors said the chances of Mr Blair's heart problems returning were very low.

The causes of atrial flutter are unclear, but could be linked to stress, genetic factors or general wear and tear on the heart.

The latest study, published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, followed up members of the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study.

The researchers, from Aarhus University Hospital, found that the average alcohol intake for men was 28.2 grams a day - about three units.

For women the average intake was 13.9 grams and more than half of those taking part consumed less than one unit a day.

The researchers found that 556 participants went on to develop atrial fibrillation - 374 men and 182 women.

Compared to men who drank less than one unit a day, those who drank two-or three units had a 44% increased risk of atrial flutter.

Those with the highest intake - more than four units a day - had a 46% increased risk.

But the researchers did not find that risk in women rose with increasing alcohol consumption.

"We found an increasing risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter by increasing alcohol consumption in men," they said.

"In women, who consumed less alcohol than men, we did not find any association between moderate alcohol consumption and risk of atrial fibrillation."