Alcohol consumption can increase the risk of atrial fibrillation

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

Lifestyle changes made at a younger age can improve heart health

New Delhi, 2nd May 2018: A new study has warned that smoking and alcohol consumption increase the lifetime risk of a rapid and irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation. This can further lead to a stroke, dementia, heart failure, and other complications. It is important for people to be aware of atrial fibrillation especially because it is emerging as a global epidemic and poses considerable socioeconomic burden.

Under normal conditions, the heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly (quiver) instead of beating effectively to move blood into the ventricles.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India, said, “The process starting from receipt of blood in the atria till the end of pumping blood out of the ventricles is very well orchestrated and bought about by the electrical circuits encompassing the heart. Any lack of coordination in these events can lead to rhythm disturbances of the heart, and atrial fibrillation is one such rhythm disturbance. The risk is more in those who consume alcohol in plenty. In this condition, the atrial chambers contract irregularly at a rate of 400 to 600 times per minute. There is an impaired filling of the ventricles and stasis of blood in the cardiac chamber mainly in the left atria leading to clot formation. This clot can dislodge from the cardiac chamber and migrate to peripheral organs mainly the brain causing stroke.”

Some symptoms of atrial fibrillation include racing or pounding heart, excessive anxiety, sense of breathlessness, fatigue, lightheadedness, and syncope.

Over 40% of people who drink consume ≥5 standard drinks on a single occasion (binge drinking). “Holiday heart syndrome” is a common emergency department presentation, with AF precipitated by alcohol in 35% to 62% of cases.

Three large meta-analyses have demonstrated that moderate habitual consumption increases the incidence of AF in a dose-dependent manner  with men and women equally affected. Alcohol consumption has been defined as: light (<7 standard drinks/week); moderate (7 to 21 standard drinks/week); and heavy (>21 standard drinks/week), where 1 standard drink is approximately 12 g of alcohol or 40 ml whisky.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “As with other conditions, the best way to manage your heart health is to make sure you see your doctor regularly and reduce the risks. Lifestyle changes made at a younger age can go a long way in preventing any damage to the heart. It is imperative to inculcate such habits right from the childhood. Elders can set an appropriate example by eating, drinking, and living healthy.”

Some tips from HCFI.

  • Quit smoking and drinking as they are two major factors in causing damage to the heart.
  • Manage your cholesterol levels as any imbalance in this can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
  • Keep a check on vitals such as blood pressure and blood sugar. Any fluctuations in these can directly impact the heart in the longer term.
  • Ensure that you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a variety of healthy food including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

AHA lists 7 common mistakes leading to erroneously high BP measurement

Health Care Comments Off

The American Heart Association (AHA) has listed 7 common mistakes that may result in erroneously high BP measurement and an inaccurate diagnosis of hypertension. These include:

Having a full bladdercan add 10-15 points to your reading.
Slouching, unsupported back or feet.Sitting with no support to back or feet can increase the BP reading by 6-10points. Make sure that the patient is sitting in a chair with back support and feet flat on the floor or a footstool.
Unsupported arm: While measuring BP, the arm should be placed on a table or flat counter, so that the measurement cuff is level with the heart. The BP reading increases by up to 10 points if the arm is hanging by the side or if it has to be held up to see the reading.
Sitting with crossed legsmay increase a blood pressure reading by 2-8 points.
Wrapping the cuff over clothingincreases reading by 5-50 points to your reading. So, the cuff should be applied over a bare arm. When taking a BP reading, the patient should be sitting comfortably in a chair, with legs uncrossed and feet flat on the floor and back and arm supported with the right-sized cuff applied over a bare arm.
Using a too small cuff increases BP reading by 2-10 points. Select the right size when measuring BP.
Answering questions, talking on the phone, etc. can add 10 points to the measured BP reading. Ask the patient to stay still and silent while the BP is being measured.

These factors may be the cause of white coat hypertension, where the BP reading is higher than normal or compared to those obtained via monitoring BP at home or in other out-of-office settings. Herein lies the significance of 24-hour ambulatory BP monitoring to accurately measure BP and confirm the diagnosis of hypertension.

(Source: AHA, April 30, 2018)