Only Alcohol – Not Caffeine, Diet or Lack of Sleep – Might Trigger Heart Rhythm Condition

Red wine being poured into glasses

New research from UC San Francisco that tested possible triggers of a common heart condition, including caffeine, sleep deprivation and sleeping on the left side, found that only alcohol use was consistently associated with more episodes of the heart arrhythmia.

The authors conclude that people might be able to reduce their risk of atrial fibrillation (AF) by avoiding certain triggers.

The study is published in JAMA Cardiology and was presented Nov. 14, 2021, at the annual Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association.

Researchers were surprised to find that although most of the things that participants thought would be related to their AF were not, those in the intervention group still experienced less arrhythmia than the people in a comparison group that was not self-monitoring.

“This suggests that those personalized assessments revealed actionable results,” said lead author Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at UCSF. “Although caffeine was the most commonly selected trigger for testing, we found no evidence of a near-term relationship between caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation. In contrast, alcohol consumption most consistently exhibited heightened risks of atrial fibrillation.”

Atrial fibrillation contributes to more than 150,000 deaths in the United States each year, reports the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the death rate on the rise for more than 20 years.

Although caffeine was the most commonly selected trigger for testing, we found no evidence of a near-term relationship between caffeine consumption and atrial fibrillation.

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