Effects of alcohol on atrial fibrillation: myths and truths

Ther Adv Cardiovasc Dis. 2009 Feb;3(1):53-63. doi: 10.1177/1753944708096380. Epub 2008 Aug 21.


Alcohol is the most consumed drug worldwide. Both acute and chronic alcohol use have been associated with cardiac arrhythmias, in particular atrial fibrillation, or so-called 'holiday heart syndrome'. Epidemiological, clinical and experimental studies have attempted to elucidate the mechanisms involved in this association. However, because most of these studies have shown conflicting results, the connection between ethanol and atrial arrhythmias remains controversial. Historical, epidemiological and pharmacological aspects of alcohol, as well as recent concepts on atrial fibrillation are reviewed. We then examine the literature and provide a critical point of view on the still elusive association between alcohol and atrial fibrillation.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Alcohol Drinking / history
  • Animals
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / etiology*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Electrocardiography
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Heart Conduction System / drug effects*
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology
  • History, Ancient
  • Holidays
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Syndrome


  • Ethanol