November 30, 2015

Does Alcohol Put You At Risk for Atrial Fibrillation?

With the holidays getting started, you may wonder how drinking alcohol impacts the risk of atrial fibrillation.

Alcohol is considered a risk factor for atrial fibrillation, but is any alcohol safe, and how much is too much?

A new study sheds some light on that for women, but those findings may still be too much. And other research indicating what is OK for men may put them at risk, too.

Learn more: Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation


  1. I am 29 Years old, i have experienced heart palpitations last year in Nov & December with a total of 3-5 episodes. The palpitations lasted for a minute. I have been evaluated by a cardiologist and also a electro physiologist. All my reports came back normal. I have been on beta blockers for nearly 2 months and have stopped from a month ago. recently i have experienced palpitations again for just 30 seconds. Do you think i need to continue medication?

  2. Wake up at night, heart racing 130bpm, sweats, thumping in chest, severe gas, belching and Afib diagnosis. Alcohol and heavy meal preceded each Afib event. Can’t sleep. Only 6 events so far but really scary. Dr says no way gas can cause Afib. Big meal no problem. Big meal and 4 drinks, problem. And, next night certain food brings on the fluttering sensation again.

  3. William A. McCann says:

    I am a very physically active 77 year old growing up playing handball, racquetball, and then tennis took over my life along with downhill and cross county skiing and mountain biking. I have an exercise routine of core muscles, arms, shoulders, chest, and legs that I do 3 to 4 times per week. I semi=retired to Sun Valley, ID where all these activities are available to me and when I’m not here, I’m in LaQuinta, CA playing tennis and exercising 4 to 6 days per week. (No more 7 days a week). I also have a well equipped exercise room in my basement so I have no excuse for not exercising.

    I have an under active thyroid and take medicine for that daily and it’s under control according to my recent blood test. I also have hemochromatosis (too much iron in my blood) and do 2 to 3 phlebotomies a year to keep the ferritin count under 100–which is a normal range.

    I have never smoked; I drink beer and wine in moderation, one or two cups of coffee per day; and at 5’11” I manage to hold my weight at a 175# range. I played HS and college football at 190#.

    In the last couple of years, however I have had dizziness, disorientation, and falls while warming up to play tennis. All I had to do was eat a power bar or something sweet and I felt normal within minutes and went back to playing tennis.

    Last April I had been playing with a pro for over an hour when all of a sudden after hitting the ball, I pitched forward and while trying to gain my balance was actually picking up speed. I finally fell hard on my right shoulder and was in extreme pain. Xrays showed no fracture or dislocation and even though 2 orthopedic surgeons recommended a shoulder replacement, I saw a physical therapist and followed the routine she gave me religiously.

    I went back to playing tennis in July and regained about 90% of my arm strength and was happy. But then the above symptoms started again and I went to an internist. I thought he was going to tell me I had a sugar imbalance but after an EKG he told me I had A-Fib. I have been on a blood thinner for 2 days now and have been talking to friends who are also tennis players that I found out also had A-Fib.

    They had various treatments and now seem to be doing fine. There are no cardiologists in the immediate area although a few make occasional visits to Sun Valley from Boise. I want to make sure that I find the right cardiologist–not just the most convenient–but I have another problem that I have to take care of my wife who is undergoing chemo treatments for a couple more months. As a result, I can’t become a patient of a doctor that I have to see regularly and he/she is a days travel to see.

    I am getting another heart imaging test on Tuesday and hopefully will learn more from my internist. I will have to find a cardiologist next week no matter what.

    If anyone has had similar experiences I would like to hear about them. This is all new to me.

    • William, You may be interested in sharing your experience on our afib patient discussion forum. Instructions for how to sign up are here. Our active forum is full of others who have been managing their afib, and they may be happy to share with you their experiences with afib. Melissa

    • You sound like you have an active lifestyle. I’m a 48 year old male with a 7+ year history of occasional A Fib. I’ve had 3 documented incidents, the first lasting about 16 hours, after which I was put on Metoprolol 25 mg daily. This was increased to 50 mg 5 years later after the second episode, which I might add was easier and only lasted a couple hours and resolved with no intervention. The third episode occurred 2 + years after that and resolved with a cardiac medicine at the local hospital also in only a few hours. I like to bicycle often, but my A Fib usually happens at night while sleeping – I usually wake up with the fluttering heart. The beta blockers definitely help to slow the progression and severity of this condition. I also suffer from much more pervasive PVC’s which can be confused with A Fib, but they are more benign.
      Thanks for you comments. I am looking into ablation for both conditions which I’m told has a high rate of success.

    • Wow! First of all, have you considered that your AFib symptoms may be due to exhaustion caused from constantly patting yourself on the back? Was it important for you to mention seven different instances of your exercise? You’re a stud, okay?

  4. Past Events: Last A Fib event requiring electrical shock to return to sinus rhythm was almost 3 years ago. Eliminated all alcohol and nearly all caffeine. Am retired so no work stress. Exercise 5 days a week most weeks.

    Current problem: When I last visited a cardiologist 3 years ago, he said that certain OTC cold medicines, and especially those that contain an antihistamine, will precipitate an A Fib event. (I had taken a heavy dosage for a bad cold). I am now suffering from a nasty case of “hay fever” with the onset of Spring time and pollen in the air. I would be very grateful if anyone could suggest an OTC medication for the sneezy, drippy nose situation that won’t precipitate a major A Fib event.

    • Ken Marshall says:

      Benedryl at night works the best without causing blood pressure rise,
      sexual dysfunction, and atrial fib events.

      Take Care,


  5. Rick Grondin says:

    Headed to Doctor this morning with AFIB again. Just was shocked back in 2 weeks ago. It was my 60th B-day last week and consumed quite a bit of liquor. Really believe is one of the issues. Really don’t drink a lot unless are at major social function. This crap knocks my energy out in a major way and stress at work also contributes. Maybe time to quit and enjoy life. Am I over worrying this AFIB? Almost feels like flu without the trowing up.

    • Just got back from a cruise and I had an Afib attack on board. Did do a lot of walking that I was not used too. I sell Real Estate for a living and everyone always tells me I work too many hours and dealing with a lot of different situations that would cause stress and therefore my Afib acts up.
      It happens at different times and I truly don’t know what triggers it. I went on the cruise to relax and enjoy and had it there. Cut way back on drinking, do not smoke, no sugar problems, take meds for BP, blood thinners and Sotalol, 80 mg, 1/2 in morning and 1/2 at bedtime, When they increase any dosage for Afib I get worse, I am taking a very low dosage according to the doctors,I am
      still puzzled as to why I get it

      • Marie,

        I’m sorry to hear you’ve been dealing with afib, and that you experienced an episode while trying to relax on a cruise! Unfortunately, the cause(s) of afib are still unknown. A lot of people try to figure out what may trigger their afib, but for many people they say doing that is enough to drive them mad. If you’d like, come join us over at our discussion forum to talk more about this and other topics. To get to the Discussion Forum, click here. To post or ask questions, you’ll need to register. Instructions for registering and getting started are here.


    • Rick, same story. I think I’m going to quit drinking for awhile & see if it helps. Getting ablation in a week so hope it takes. Like you, it’s absolutely debilitating when I’m out of rhythm. Hope you are feeling better.

  6. I am 66 and have been living with AF for 20 yrs. My first experience happened drinking cold water from the fridge after climbing out of bed on a hot night, however that may not have been the cause.
    I usually get AF 3-4 times a yr and have always been of the opinion alcohol could be the trigger, but since cutting back on alcohol the last few years and only drinking on average 10 standard glasses per week I still continue to get AF. The interesting thing is in the last year AF has happened on the golf course 4 times so that may have been triggered by excessive exercise walking up a few steep hills. For me it’s very difficult to work out the cause, plus i had an ablation procedure 7 yrs ago which had no effect what so ever.

    • Geoff, have you considered dehydration as a possible issue? All of the things you mentioned could possibly lead to dehydration.

    • jim currie says:

      Jeff I have had 5 attacks in 6 years and 3 times at a golf club…I do hill walk7ng which is much more strenuous. So why the golf club

  7. I have had AFIB off and on for several years. 58yoa and have been taking feccanide acitate twice daily. Usually get the afib after heavy boozing the night before. Typically the afib lasts 8-12hrs from when I awake and converts to sinus . I have tried exercising to get the rhthym back quicker but I’m finding it take longer no matter what I do. Hydration is a must in the morning as well. However I just got released from the hospital after atrial flutter 210bpm. Very scary had to be cardio verted 150 jules. Maybe I should find a new hobby

  8. Hey guys my name is vinny im 28 years i had a AFIB 5 days ago my first time ever…so ever since i had it i feel like my heart sometimes stops and goes back to normal when im working out has anyone felt like that after twy had a afib? Its scary but i know i been drinking a glass of red wine a day plus over the weekend i had 5 glasses and i have anxiety too and im suppose to drink coffee because it triggers my panic attacks but i have been drinking it and dealing with it until this happen to just scared it happens i went to 2 cardio doctors before this happen to me i ruled out every test Ekg,echo,stress,24hr heart monitor all these test came back fine from two different doctors..i need some answers please help really scared…

    • Hey Vinny – I understand what you are going through and I have been down that same path, and still do. First off, you must stop using caffeine and cocoa – i.e. chocolate. If you are able to not use those items, and you find you no longer get afib, or heat palpitations – then you know what you are sensitive to. That is my case: I have not been able to have caffeine or chocolate for 5 years now. For the most part, I have been afib-free.

      However, I have found that I am sensitive to MSG, a very common food additive, found in most prepackaged foods. You might want to consider eliminating that from your diet as well. Chik Filet’s menu consists of mostly MSG-laden food, so I completely avoid that place.

      I too, have dealt with anxiety and panic attacks for over 25 years. For me, stress is a factor in triggering those as well.

      Basically, your nervous system is telling you, that it doesn’t like something. Stimulants like caffeine and depressants like alcohol are perhaps affecting your nervous system. Don’t count out food sensitivities like MSG. Stress surely isn’t helping you, so work on reducing it as best as you can.

      Just remember that you are not alone in this. This website looks like a good place to frequent and learn more about afib. Try and stay positive and don’t forget to enjoy life. This disease can sap the spirit out of you, if you let it. Don’t let it.

      Regards – Mark

      • Johnny305 says:

        Best advice I’ve read, stress, caffeine and chocolate. Family is a big stress as we’ll , learn to control it or it will kill you.

    • Hi Vinny, If you haven’t already, you may be interested in joining our discussion forum. Click here to get to the Discussion Forum. To post or ask questions, you’ll need to register. Instructions for registering and getting started are here. Also, some people find that working out takes them out of sinus rhythm while others find it helps put them back into sinus rhythm. Additionally, you may be interested in reading Mellanie’s blog on “Holiday Heart Syndrome”.


  9. I have had afib several years but never diagnosed for it. The first time I called the ambulance and was very embarrassed because by the time they came I felt fine and also the doctor said I had indigestion. Since then I’ve had a couple bad bouts, once sitting on the floor with the phone wondering who I could call. It lasted hours and my blood pressure was 148/134. When explaining it to my GP she was confused by the symptoms and when going on holiday I asked her what I should put on my insurance application and she said ‘unresolved’. I would like to try exercise and diet to see if I can get it under control but don’t know where to start. I don’t smoke and seldom have a drink, not overweight but know I need to eat more wisely and exercise but how much?

    • It’s tough to know how much exercise is right for those with afib because of how both afib and exercise affect each person differently. You may want to discuss that with your doctor. For more ideas in the meantime, you may be interested in joining our discussion forum. Instructions for registering and getting started are here.

  10. I’ve been diagnosed for the last 4yrs now with Afib at age 54. I admit I drink beer like water , but, otherwise am healthy. I hesitate to take asprin or any blood thinners because I understand i’m drinking my blood thinner. Only other addition is I had rheumatic fever as a teenager, although all X-rays back then showed no heart damage. My doctor says its constant. I’m used to it and can’t tell the difference. Should I worry? How long can I expect to live?

    • Austin, thanks for sharing your experience with us here. You may also be interested in joining our lively discussion on our Forum: To post or ask questions, you’ll need to register. Instructions for registering and getting started are here: Also, beer and other alcohols may not be effective as blood thinners, or in stroke prevention for atrial fibrillation. We cannot know life expectancy, but you may be interested in reading more about stroke risk in afib, especially if your doctor suggests you take an anticoagulant. This page on stroke may be a good starting place to learn more about stroke and afib. We hope you will join us for discussion over on the forum.

  11. I have been diagnosed with afib for years and really haven’t taken it all that seriously, I guess. I’m going to start trying to get it better in control. I’ve taken Tikosyn for 5 years and it seems to work most of the time, but, every time I over drink alcohol (three or more) I get afib for several days. I can usually get it back in rhythm after a few days with vigorous exercise. I also have mild sleep apnea, but, haven’t tried anything like C-pap. I guess I should not drink alcohol. I’ve cut back, but, it is a big part of my life. I’m going to try the hydration method when drinking and see if it helps. The afib doesn’t really slow me down any and I’m otherwise extremely healthy. I wonder if I should consider an ablation procedure. How do people decide to do that?

    • I was on Tikosin for a year as treatment for afib when I started having serious V tach. The V tach stopped within 24 hours after stopping the Tikosin. Be careful, and watch for the same!

    • Pam Sears says:

      You should use CPAP as untreated sleep apnea is a HUGE risk factor!!!

  12. chris woolf says:

    Just had my second official occurrence, I say official coz I’d had several occurrences previously from being diagnosed, these happened while I was on night work and I had been consuming Red Bull and Pro Plus tabs to stay awake! These occurrences I thought was just a temporary fast heartbeat which self righted and no further action on my part was taken.
    May last year (2012) was when it hit me, rushed into hospital after a suspect heart attack which proved negative, it was then I was diagnosed with AFib.
    Dec 22nd 2012 02:30 while on holiday in France, I had my latest occurrence, woken from my sleep by my racing pulse of 120, apart from that I felt ok, slightly anxious as to whether to tell anyone or wait until I arrived back in the UK later that day! I took double my medication of ‘Flecanide Acetate’ and hoped my pulse would return to normal (RHB of 54) BPM I didn’t tell anyone about my problem and as group leader ensured my group of 18 skiers got home. I then realised after 16 hours my heart was still pumping for England and subsequently again rushed into hospital with a heart beat in excess of 150BPM. I was kept in overnight and release on Christmas Eve.
    The doctors are convinced this occurrence was caused by the amount of alcohol consumed during the week in France and not the physical activity, and i have to admit the last evening I had consumed a bottle and half of red wine and drank coffee, and had been drinking most days throughout the week. This occurrence certainly worried me being only 54 and still full of life…well I want to be! Last night was New Years eve and as usual I went out with friends and family and despite not drinking any alcohol I had a great time.
    When I have an occurrence I also suffer from a bit of acid reflux in my throat and slight heart burn which has been the case on and off since Dec 22nd, the interesting bit is I have just read the theory about hydration and how that may keep the Afib beast at bay! I have been rehydrating over the last couple hours and the acid reflux has gone, I know this isn’t conclusive evidence but any hope and all that!
    Anyway I’m off skiing again in two weeks which will be alcohol free for me so I can see if the the physical activity has any bearing on the condition!

  13. The truth is that nobody knows what causes or triggers AFib. I just had my 3rd occurrance a few days ago. Its been almost 10 years since my last one. What triggered this? Can’t think of anything special. I think its just one of those things that can’t be identified. BOth my parents had pacemakers. Why they had them, I don’t know. I do think there’s a genetic link. Its all about body chemistry. For some unknown reason, the electrical makeup of one’s body with AFib doesn’t work the way it should. For a diabetic, the body can’t process insulin correctly.In the case of AFib, I think its an issue of processing minerals correctly. For some reason, the body isn’t using things like magnesium correctly and thus degredates the electrical system. I think stress factors also contribute. Each time I’ve had an occurance, there’s been a stress component. First time was a bee sting. Second time, I had been diagnosed with sarcoma (cancer) a few days prior to the onset of it. Of course it turned out that I didn’t have cancer but I found out after going into AFib. This time, the holidays, between Christmas and New Years. Lots of stuff going on during this time so maybe that had something to do with it. Then again, being a commercial pilot you would think could easily trigger AFib since it can get quite stressful sometimes. I can think of at least 3 times that I thought we could be moments from being killed, yet no problems at those times. Go figure.

  14. I have had a few afib events and now use a pill-in-the-pocket strategy, always converting after popping about 3 x 100mg within 2 to 4 hrs. Also take 200mg per day before a big event like my recent 60th. No problem after that. My GP has persuaded me to take Paradaxa which I have done for a month with no problems – just hope I don’t have a serious accident! I cycle and paddle ski regularly.

    So life goes on with afib! Just drink lots of water, keep some Amiodorone pills or equivalent at your bedside and take an anti-coagulant. Maybe an ablation one day for me but for now I’m managing it!


  1. […] Does Alcohol Put You At Risk for Atrial Fibrillation? – With the holidays getting started, you may wonder how drinking alcohol impacts the risk of atrial fibrillation. Alcohol is considered a risk factor for atrial … […]

  2. […] culprits they are portrayed to be in causing atrial fibrillation? You can read those articles at Does Alcohol Put You at Risk for Atrial Fibrillation? and The Role of Coffee in Atrial […]