Beer festivals, a night out with the pals, and a weekend cookout often result in their fair share of beer drinking. Hanging out in social situations – or simply trying new brews – it’s easy to get carried away and wind up in a binge drinking session. While you may be thinking “I don’t drink every day,” so a couple extra rounds couldn’t hurt, researchers in Germany have discovered otherwise. A study done during none other than Munich’s Oktoberfest has revealed that binge drinking can lead to heart arrhythmias.
Possibly the most famous beer festival world wide, Oktoberfest is the prime time to study binge drinking. With thousands flocking to the festival for steins of beer and drinking games, all the researchers needed to do was find a few willing test subjects – which let’s face it, wasn’t too hard.
After going through all the necessary logistics, the Dr. Moritz Sinner – an assistant professor of medicine at University Hospital Munich – and his team showed up at the festival with smart-phone breathalyzer tests and electrocardiograms in hand ready to test heart rhythms.
The team was looking for more than just abnormal heart rates, they were conducting the study to understand a condition known as “holiday heart syndrome”. If you’re not familiar with the term, holiday heart syndrome is atrial fibrillation – irregular heartbeat – caused by a binge drinking session.
Testing over 3,000 willing subjects during the 16-day festival, Sinner and his team collected data on heart rate and blood alcohol concentration levels. The average person tested had a BAC of 0.09, which is above the United States legal limit of a 0.08.
What Sinner and his team found was that the more people consumed, the more their heart rate increased, and their ability to slow down their heart rate by changing breathing patterns was decreased. The smart-phone equipment could only test heart rates for 30 seconds, however, so there is no concrete evidence as to how that rate changed after hours of binge drinking.
The negative effects of binge drinking on the heart is no new revelation. Doctors have long warned about the dangerous effects that abusing alcohol can have on the body. Individuals who consume more than the daily recommended intakes – one drink for women, two for men – a more prone to liver failure, kidney failure, cardiac arrest, and a host of other health problems.
While more work still needs to be done on the connection between alcohol and heart arrhythmias, binge drinking is certainly damaging. It’s fun to have a couple rounds here and there, but just like everything else, it should be kept in moderation to avoid damage to the health.
So if you take anything away from this study, it’s that maybe you should pace yourself and sip on a glass of water in between beers.