MONDAY, July 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol abuse is associated with an increased the risk of death in people with abnormal heart rhythms, a new study warns.
Researchers reviewed deaths among almost 115,000 patients aged 15-54 hospitalized for abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) between 2010 and 2014.
Nearly 10% of the patients were also diagnosed with alcohol abuse, defined as drinking that causes problems at home, work or school, whether or not the person is considered physically dependent on alcohol.
Arrhythmia patients were significantly more likely to die in the hospital if they had clogged arteries, diabetes or were aged 45 to 54.
After adjusting for other risk factors, the researchers also found that hospitalized arrhythmia patients were 72% more likely to die of any cause before discharge if they also had diagnosed alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the study presented July 27 at a virtual American Heart Association (AHA) meeting.
Because of the study design, the findings can't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between alcohol abuse and death from abnormal heart rhythms.
"Alcohol abuse has harmful effects on physical health, leading to more illness and death in patients with heart problems. This is the first study to explore whether alcohol abuse is a risk factor for death in patients hospitalized with arrhythmia," said study author Dr. Rikinkumar Patel, a resident physician in the Department of Psychiatry at Griffin Memorial Hospital in Norman, Okla.
Arrhythmias occur when the heart beats too slowly, too quickly or erratically. Underlying heart problems can result in arrhythmia, and excessive alcohol use is known to promote the development of arrhythmia.
"Physicians should educate patients with alcohol problems about their risk of hospitalization for arrhythmia and their increased risk of death. Integrated care models need to be developed to formulate strategies to counter problematic alcohol use and improve the health-related quality of life of patients," Patel said in an AHA news release.
Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on arrhythmia.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, July 27, 2020