Does Ease of Access to Alcohol Affect Risk of Heart Conditions?

Alcohol may reduce myocardial infarction odds, but up likelihood of atrial fibrillation
Alcohol may reduce myocardial infarction odds, but up likelihood of atrial fibrillation

HealthDay News — Texans living in "dry" counties are more likely to suffer myocardial infarction and congestive heart failure than those living in nearby "wet" counties, where alcohol sales are legal; however, atrial fibrillation is less likely in dry counties, according to a study published online June 14 in The BMJ.

Gregory Marcus, MD, director of clinical research for the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Cardiology, and colleagues focused on Texas, where local option laws give individual counties the power to outlaw alcohol sales. They analyzed medical data on more than 1.1 million hospitalizations recorded between 2005 and 2010 among Texans 21 or older. Patients were sorted based on whether they lived in a dry or wet county.

The researchers found that people living in a wet county were 36% more likely to drink too much. They also found that wet county residents appeared less likely to suffer myocardial infarction or congestive heart failure, but more likely to develop atrial fibrillation.

"I suspect this suggests that some are at greater risk and others may be more prone to benefit. For example, if a patient has a propensity to develop atrial fibrillation, alcohol, even in moderation, may be harmful for that person," Marcus told HealthDay. On the other hand, "if someone is at low risk for atrial fibrillation and yet high risk for a heart attack, perhaps due to genetic variants that mediate such risk, then moderate alcohol consumption could yet be helpful for that person."

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