COLUMBIA, S.C. – A new study has found that one glass of wine a day may actually hurt your heart, running counter to other studies that say it helps it.
The study, done by researchers at the University of California, found that moderate alcohol use, just one drink a day, leads to a five percent increase in the risk of developing an enlarged left atrium, one of the chambers of the heart. That can then lead to atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm in which the atrium quivers instead of pumping blood efficiently. Atrial fibrillation can lead to blood clots forming which can then cause a stroke.
The study looked at 5,220 patients who are part of a long-term study. Researchers looked at their EKGs and found how many had atrial fibrillation. Even taking into account high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking, the equivalent of one drink of alcohol a day led to the higher rate of a fib.
Doug Aylard is the owner of Vino Garage in Columbia, which sells wine and beer. He says he’s heard for decades about the health benefits of alcohol in moderation, especially red wine. “Apart from the whole relaxing quality of it, the alcohol tends to help thin the blood to help the heart more,” he says. Other studies have also shown that red wine improves good cholesterol.
Of the new study that counters the earlier ones, Aylard says, “It really doesn’t worry me. I think it’s too small of a study. Looking at it they really didn’t take other conditions into consideration, such as diet.”
Even the lead author of the study, Dr. Gregory Marcus, says the study cannot say that the alcohol use is the cause of the atrial fibrillation. He says some people may have a genetic predisposition to it and he would recommend that they avoid alcohol, while others may benefit from moderate alcohol use. The American Heart Association defines moderate use as one or two drinks a day for a man and one drink per day for a woman.