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Alcohol Negatively Affects Heart Rate

alcohol heart rate arrhythmia health

The next time you pick up a drink, you might want to think twice, especially if you're prone to panic anxiety or heart arrhythmias. Alcohol increases your heart rate according to a new european study out of Germany.


Drinking alcohol raises your heart rate, according to research presented at EHRA 2018 Congress, organized by the European Society of Cardiology in Spain.

Binge Drinking Causes Irregular Heartbeats

Binge drinking has been linked with atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase your risk of stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications.

Researchers Tested Subjects At Octoberfest In Munich

The Munich Beer Related Electrocardiogram Workup (MunichBREW) study was conducted by researchers from the LMU University Hospital Munich Department of Cardiology, supported by the German Cardiovascular Research Centre and the European Commission. It was the first assessment of the acute effects of alcohol on electrocardiogram (ECG) readings. The study included more than 3,000 people attending the 2015 Munich Oktoberfest.

Subjects Tested At Octoberfest

At Oktoberfest, electrocardiogram readings were taken and breath alcohol concentrations were measured. Age, sex, heart disease, heart medications, and smoking status were recorded. Participants were, on average, 35 years old and 30% were women. The average breath alcohol concentration was 0.85 g/kg. Increasing breath alcohol concentration was significantly associated with sinus tachycardia of more than 100 beats per minute in 25.9% of the cohort. Tachycardia is a common type of heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia) in which the heart beats faster than normal while at rest.

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Increased Heart Rate Associated With Higher Breath Alcohol Concentration

The current analysis of the MunichBREW study looked in more detail at the quantitative electrocardiogram measurements in 3,012 participants. The researchers investigated the association between blood alcohol concentration and four electrocardiogram parameters: excitation (heart rate), conduction (PR interval, QRS complex), and repolarization (QT interval).

Increased heart rates were associated with higher breath alcohol concentration, confirming the initial results of the MunichBREW study. However, alcohol consumption had no effect on conduction and repolarization.

Drinking Negatively Affects Heart Rate

“The more alcohol you drink, the higher your heart rate gets,” said Dr Stefan Brunner, a cardiologist at the University Hospital Munich, Munich, Germany, who is one of the lead authors.

Researchers believe the increase in heart rate with alcohol consumption could lead to heart rhythm disorders in the longer-term.

Dr Moritz Sinner, another lead author, said: “We cannot yet conclude that a higher heart rate induced by alcohol is harmful. But people with heart conditions already have a higher heart rate, which in many cases triggers arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation. So it is plausible that the higher heart rate following alcohol consumption could lead to arrhythmias.”

He added, “Most people in our study were young and healthy. If we conducted the same study in older people or heart patients we might have found an association between drinking alcohol and arrhythmias.”