(HealthDay News) – In older people with heart disease or advanced diabetes with organ damage, moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of atrial fibrillation, according to research published online Oct 1 in CMAJ, the journal of the Canadian Medical Association.

Yan Liang, MD, of the Population Health Research Institute in Hamilton, Canada, and colleagues conducted a study involving 30,433 individuals aged ≥55 years from 40 countries, enrolled in two large antihypertensive drug treatment trials, who had a history of cardiovascular disease or advanced diabetes with organ damage. Moderate alcohol consumption was defined as one to 14 drinks per week for women or one to 21 drinks for men, and binge drinking was defined as five or more drinks per day.

Overall, 2,093 patients experienced incident atrial fibrillation. Per 1,000 person-years, the researchers found the incidence rate to be 14.5 for those with low levels of alcohol consumption, 17.3 for those with moderate levels, and 20.8 for those with high levels. Participants with higher levels had a significantly elevated risk of incident atrial fibrillation, compared to those with a low level of consumption (adjusted hazard ratio: 1.14 for moderate consumption and 1.32 for high consumption). Similar results were seen on exclusion of binge drinkers. Among moderate drinkers, compared with non-binge drinkers, binge drinkers had an increased risk of atrial fibrillation (adjusted hazard ratio, 1.29).

“Recommendations about the protective effects of moderate alcohol intake in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease may need to be tempered with these findings,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to Boehringer Ingelheim, which sponsored the ONTARGET and TRANSCEND trials.

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