Alcohol and incident atrial fibrillation – A systematic review and meta-analysis

Celine Gallagher, Jeroen M.L. Hendriks, Adrian D. Elliott, Christopher X. Wong, Geetanjali Rangnekar, Melissa E. Middeldorp, Rajiv Mahajan, Dennis H. Lau, Prashanthan Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


Background Whilst high levels of alcohol consumption are known to be associated with atrial fibrillation (AF), it is unclear if any level of alcohol consumption can be recommended to prevent the onset of the condition. The aim of this review is to characterise the association between chronic alcohol intake and incident AF. Methods and results Electronic literature searches were undertaken using PubMed and Embase databases up to 1 February 2016 to identify studies examining the impact of alcohol on the risk of incident AF. Prospective studies reporting on at least three levels of alcohol intake and published in English were eligible for inclusion. Studies of a retrospective or case control design were excluded. The primary study outcome was development of incident AF. Consistent with previous studies, high levels of alcohol intake were associated with an increased incident AF risk (HR 1.34, 95% CI 1.20–1.49, p < 0.001). Moderate levels of alcohol intake were associated with a heightened AF risk in males (HR 1.26, 95% CI 1.04–1.54, p = 0.02) but not females (HR 1.03, 95% CI 0.86–1.25, p = 0.74). Low alcohol intake, of up to 1 standard drink (SD) per day, was not associated with AF development (HR 0.95, 95% CI 0.85–1.06, p = 0.37). Conclusions Low levels of alcohol intake are not associated with the development of AF. Gender differences exist in the association between moderate alcohol intake and AF with males demonstrating greater increases in risk, whilst high alcohol intake is associated with a heightened AF risk across both genders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-52
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Cardiology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Gender differences
  • Incident atrial fibrillation
  • Meta-analysis
  • Patient outcomes
  • Systematic review


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