German Researchers Found Link Between Drinking and Arrhythmia

jugs of beer at Oktoberfest

What do people usually do during Oktoberfest? The popular answer is drink beer and eat wurst while having more than a few laughs with close friends. Nevertheless, showing true German spirit, a team of researchers came up with a usual idea for a study – they analyzed the link between alcohol intoxication and arrhythmia. All during the most popular German festival where study volunteers were all but scarce.

The Team Came Up With the Idea While Enjoying a Beer

Back in 2015, during a hot summer, Stefan Brunner and his fellow researchers were enjoying a couple of beers while brainstorming the design of their new study centered on the correlation between abnormal heart rhythms and alcohol consumption.

Since it was hard to gather up a broad sample of individuals and get them inebriated just to measure their heart rate, they had to come up with a viable mean of procuring study participants. Luckily, every fall, Germans gather round and put their beer tolerance levels to the test.

Alcohol’s Influence on Heart Health Was Not a Secret

Previous studies have shown a clear relationship between alcohol consumption and poor heart health. Otherwise healthy people can be at risk of stroke or cardiac arrest if they drink too much on a single occasion, while those with preexisting conditions could experience complications after smaller doses.

Brunner and his team wanted to focus on a slightly obscure affliction called holiday heart syndrome – sudden atrial fibrillation that usually occurs in patients who engage in binge drinking practices. Until now, little was known about the mechanisms of this disease.

People Were Happy to Participate in the Study

The researchers were happy to discover that the majority of festival-goers were excited to be a part of the study. During the 16-day celebration, the team managed to collect data from 3,028 individuals using portable ECG instruments and smartphone-based breath analyzers.

The average age of participants was 35, while the common blood alcohol level measured around 0.85 g/kg – approximately 0.09 percent in the American system. By comparison, a BAC level of 0.08 is the threshold for drunk driving, according to US law. Severely intoxicated people were not approached as their capability of giving consent was questionable.

What the Researchers Found

After analyzing their broad sample, researchers found that inebriated individuals presented signs of sinus tachycardia. In other words, most individuals who were intoxicated presented inexplicable irregular heart rate. Furthermore, the team managed to prove that the arrhythmia was caused by sudden changes in breathing prompted by their alcohol consumption.

The more a person drinks, the more erratic their heart rhythm becomes. Moreover, the same applies to the individual’s breathing level. The broad conclusion of the study is that moderate drinking can help prevent a sudden stroke or heart attack, even if the person in question doesn’t have a history of heart problems.